Pickups and SUVs boosted U.S. auto sales in September as dealers offered promotions, gas prices fell and contractors replaced aging fleets of work trucks.
The Associated Press reported that truck sales at General Motors, Chrysler and Ford grew in the double digits, outpacing cars. The September increases built on a healthy performance in August, when new models, cheaper financing and pent-up demand lifted the industry after several disappointing months.
Analysts had expected more Japanese vehicles to fill showrooms after months of shortages related to March’s earthquake and tsunami. But Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co., the two automakers hit hardest by the March earthquake, continued to struggle in September. Toyota sales were down 17.5%, while Honda’s fell 8%.
General Motors Co.’s sales rose 20% compared with last September, led by a 34% rise in sales of full-size pickups and SUVs. Chrysler Group LLC’s overall sales rose 27%, including a 45% jump in Ram pickup sales.
At Ford, sales rose just 9% overall, but sales of SUVs rose 35% and pickup sales climbed 15%.
The price of regular gasoline in September dropped nearly 30 cents per gallon from the peak this year of $3.90 in May.
Promotions were especially helpful to vehicle sales in September, according to Jeff Schuster, executive director of global forecasting for J.D. Power and Associates. GM, for example, was offering zero-percent financing and $1,000 cash on the 2011 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 pickup. Sales of the Silverado, one of America’s best-selling vehicles, rose 36%.
Small businesses also needed to buy new trucks.
“There remains an older fleet of commercial-use trucks with small and medium contractors, so some of those could be coming back into the market to take advantage of the current conditions,” Schuster said.