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Data Point

10 Takeaways from U.S. Auto Sales in September


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September sales volumes were lower as expected, with fewer selling days and no Labor Day weekend in the mix. Compared to 2018, industry volume was down 11%. The sales pace was still relatively healthy though, thanks in part to strong fleet performance and healthy incentives during this model year sell down season.

Our Kelley Blue Book team ran all the numbers for September. Here are 10 points we found interesting:

  1. As many automakers choose to abandon the shrinking compact car segment, Honda and Toyota are sitting pretty. The segment is down by roughly 15% this year, but Civic and Corolla sales are holding steady in year-over-year comparisons. Both have gained significant market share in the segment and are routinely selling well more than 25,000 units a month. Honda Civic is the segment leader.
  2. The Subaru winning streak was disrupted last month with sales down versus September 2018, the first year-over-year drop in 93 months. Still, Subaru continues to be one of the hottest brands in the U.S. market. A typical new Subaru is in dealer inventory for half as long as the industry average, according to Kelley Blue Book.
  3. The success of Ram’s full-size pickup strategy continues to be a major story. The Ram brand has all the pickup truck momentum right now and rival Chevy has been left in the rearview mirror. Through September, the Ram full-size has averaged more than 51,200 sales a month while Silverado is closer to 45,500. With three months to go in 2019, Ram is the #2 full-size pickup in the U.S. market, beating Chevrolet for the first time ever.
  4. Fiat sales continue to slow in the U.S. By our estimates, September was the lowest volume month for Fiat since the brand’s 2011 relaunch in the U.S. Total sales were less than 600.
  5. There were many fat cash incentives in place last month. Jaguar seemed to be the most aggressive, at least from a dollar perspective: There were multiple Jags with $11,000 in guaranteed consumer cash. Through September, Jaguar sales are up nearly 6%.
  6. The Kelley Blue Book average transaction price (ATP) in September was $37,186. By that measure, Jeep was the most average brand in September, with a brand-wide ATP of $37,510. Mitsubishi was lowest, making it the most affordable brand in the U.S., while Porsche was far on the other end. The average new Porsche sold for close to $100,000 last month.
  7. In the low-volume wars, the hot new Toyota two-door sports car – Supra! – outsold the less hot, less new Toyota two-door sports car – 86 – by a wide margin, 514 to 211.
  8. KBB counted 293 models with at least one sale in September. The top-30, best-selling models accounted for 51% of total sales, which is relatively consistent to the market. Number of models in the U.S. that sell less than 1,000 in a month: 106 in September.
  9. The market is still looking for the hoped-for electric vehicle (EV) sales surge. Through September, our team is estimated 179,000 EVs have been sold in the U.S., mostly Tesla Model 3s. That’s still less than 2% of the market, but higher than last year. Chevy Bolt sales are up 11% so far this year, averaging more than 1,000 a month.
  10. By volume, Infiniti had a particularly miserable month, with sales down 44% year over year. But they were not alone: Japanese luxury had a slow September. Lexus was down 23% year over year; Acura was down 18%. And for historians keeping track, Amati monthly sales remain at 0.

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