Ford, Chrysler, GM see September sales gains

Posted Oct. 1, 2010 at 3:23 p.m.

Bloomberg News | General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Group LLC and Nissan Motor Co. said U.S. sales rose in September as the industry recovers from its worst year in almost three decades.

Deliveries at GM, the largest U.S. automaker, climbed 11 percent from a year earlier to 173,155, the Detroit-based company said in a statement today. Ford, the second-largest, increased sales 41 percent to 160,873, the Dearborn, Michigan- based company said in a statement.

Industrywide deliveries may have reached an annual rate of 11.7 million vehicles this month, the average of nine analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg. That would top the 9.4 million pace of last September, the month after the U.S. “cash for clunkers” program ended. Deliveries for all of 2009 were 10.4 million, the lowest since 1982.

“The numbers for September should look pretty good,” Gerald Meyers, a professor at the University of Michigan Business School, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “InsideTrack.” “It’s a bit deceptive because last September was so poor after the cash for clunkers’ program ended. It seems as if auto sales in the U.S. have bottomed out and are headed up from here.”

GM’s deliveries trailed three analysts’ average estimate for a 13 percent gain. Chevrolet brand sales rose 18 percent to 121,479, helped by the Silverado pickup and Equinox SUV. Buick deliveries gained 36 percent to 12,875, aided by the LaCrosse sedan. GMC increased 42 percent to 25,995, and Cadillac rose 11 percent to 12,620.

Willing to Spend’

“Consumers are willing to spend, albeit cautiously,” Don Johnson, GM’s vice president of U.S. sales, said today on a conference call with analysts. The industrywide selling rate for the month may be 12 million, he said.

Sales of GM’s Hummer, Pontiac, Saab and Saturn brands, which were closed or sold, fell to 186 vehicles from 14,982 vehicles in September 2009. GM’s four remaining U.S. brands — Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick — rose a combined 22 percent in September.

Ford’s results topped six analysts’ average estimate for a 40 percent gain. The company’s namesake brand deliveries increased 49 percent to 147,057 vehicles, while Lincoln gained 26 percent to 7,510 and the Mercury line, which is being discontinued, rose 16 percent to 6,306.

Excluding the Volvo line, which Ford sold to China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co., sales rose 46 percent.

Ford rose 8 cents to $12.32 at 12:36 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading, reversing a drop of as much as 1 percent. The shares gained 22 percent this year through yesterday.

Chrysler Sales

Chrysler sales increased 61 percent to 100,077, the Auburn Hills, Michigan-based company said in a statement. That topped the 48 percent average estimate of six analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Deliveries of its namesake brand rose 92 percent to 17,348, helped by the Town & Country minivan and Sebring sedan. The Dodge brand increased 71 percent to 36,272, Jeep rose 65 percent to 28,603, and Ram gained 22 percent to 17,854.

“Chrysler is benefitting from stable gas prices and the highly visible launch of the redesigned Grand Cherokee,” Ivan Drury, an analyst for Santa Monica, California-based, said in an e-mailed statement today. “As long as consumers are not worried about high fuel costs Chrysler should be able to maintain a decent sales pace, since 71 percent of Chrysler sales are trucks.”

Consumer Confidence

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan final index of consumer sentiment fell to 68.2 last month from 68.9 in August. The drop was smaller than analysts estimated, evidence that the largest part of the economy may be stabilizing.

The gauge, released today, was projected to decline to 67, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey of economists, and compares with a preliminary reading of 66.6 issued last month.

“We believe the economic recovery in the second half will be slower than the first half,” GM’s Johnson said. “We do expect modest employment growth. Consumers are starting to spend, albeit cautiously.”

Nissan Motor Co., Japan’s third-largest automaker, sold 74,205 Nissan and Infiniti vehicles last month, up 34 percent from a year earlier, Al Castignetti, vice president of U.S. sales, said in an interview. Car deliveries expanded 36 percent, led by a 65 percent jump for Altima sedans, he said.

“This year has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride,” Castignetti said. Sales should keep improving for the rest of 2010, particularly as light-truck demand remains strong, he said.

Nissan was expected to boost sales 30 percent, the average estimate of four analysts.

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