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US auto sales show signs of recovery in the third quarter

General Motors Co.’s

GM 2.72%

Sales in the U.S. declined for the third quarter but showed signs of strengthening as the U.S. auto industry continued to recover from the coronavirus-related lockdowns that brought business to a standstill this spring.

The U.S. auto industry recovered faster than many expected this summer, partly due to strong demand for trucks and sports vehicles, an increase in urban consumers turning to car ownership and easier credit terms which make car payments more convenient.

Analysts had expected the sales pace in September to be closer to what it was earlier this year, before the pandemic led to business closures and travel restrictions in March.

GM said Thursday that its third-quarter U.S. sales were down nearly 1

0% from the prior-year period, but the decrease was less than the 34% decline seen in the second quarter, when all of its factories Americans were temporarily inactive to protect workers from the spread of the virus. GM said its production has mostly returned to pre-pandemic levels.

The Detroit-based automaker has benefited financially from the growing demand for large pickup trucks that have long been its weak point, as well as from cost-cutting measures put in place years earlier.

Rival Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV also experienced a 10% decline in US sales in the third quarter, but the decline was less than the 39% decline recorded in the second quarter.

Ford Motor Co.

is expected to release third quarter sales on Friday and the numbers from

Tesla Inc.

they are also expected in the next few days.

Car-buying website Edmunds.com estimates that total U.S. auto industry sales for the third quarter will still be down 11%, but that’s an improvement from the nearly 31% drop in the second. quarter.

Driving the recovery is increased demand from consumers buying cars from dealerships, unlike fleet operators and other companies that buy vehicles in bulk and are still recovering from the crisis.

A shortage of available vehicles – a hangover since auto factory closures this spring – is helping to drive prices up as carmakers and dealerships have pulled out of promotions and other discounts.

According to J.D. Power, car buyers paid an all-time high of $ 35,655 on average for a new vehicle in September, up 5.6% from the same month last year.

Sales in September were boosted in part by the Labor Day holiday weekend, when many dealerships offer discounts to attract customers, but overall performance indicates strong underlying demand for new vehicles, said Thomas King, president of data and analytics. by JD Power. “This despite the limited inventory for many of the more popular vehicles.”

South Korea

Hyundai Motor Co.

is among the many auto manufacturers leading the industry’s comeback. Hyundai, which recently expanded its lineup to include popular full-size SUVs, said its U.S. sales increased 5.4% in September, compared to a year ago, and fell only 1%. in the third quarter.

Japanese carmakers, which have a smaller presence in booming truck markets, have been slower to recover. But for some, September was looking up.

Toyota Motor Corp.

TM -0.01%

said its third quarter U.S. sales were down nearly 11% from the prior year period, but recorded a 16% increase in September, with SUVs like the Rav4 and Highlander buoying performance of the company.

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