Ian Thibodeau and Breana Noble
The Detroit News
Published 11:00 AM EDT Oct 2, 2019
Sales for the past three months for the Detroit Three were a mixed bag, with General Motors Co.’s total sales increasing 6.3%, Ford Motor Co.’s sliding nearly 5% and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s staying the same year-over-year.
The three automakers reported third-quarter sales figures Wednesday, a day after foreign carmakers reported monthly figures.
Ford’s decline was driven largely by a continued decline in car sales as the automaker prunes what were slow-selling sedans from the Ford brand. The automaker’s car sales dropped 29.5% in the third quarter.
Ford said SUV sales dropped 10.5% in that same time period as it prepares to introduce new Explorer and Escape sport utilities. SUV sales are off 5% for the year. Its truck sales grew 8.8% in the quarter and 6.9% in the year, due in large part to the Ranger midsize pickup. Total sales for the quarter were 580,251.
Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service said Wednesday during a phone call that the industry “continues to be really quite solid despite a lot of issues flaring up.”
The job market is strong, he said, and when people feel confident, they buy vehicles. On a monthly basis, LaNeve said September had fewer days, and one less weekend than a year ago, and that contributed to sales declines for the industry. He added that Ford sales would have increased if not for planned sales declines in passenger cars.
LaNeve added that Ranger drove Ford truck sales to a 10-year high in the third quarter. The automaker moved 240,387 full-size and mid-size pickups in the third quarter.
Meanwhile, even as GM was hit a with nationwide strike by the United Auto Workers late in September, the company reported Chevrolet brand sales rose 4.6% for the quarter. They are down 3% year to date. GMC trucks and utility vehicles were up 11% in the third quarter and up nearly 6% for the year. Cadillac sales rose 7.2% for the past three months, and Buick’s were up 10.2%. Sales for all brands totaled 738,638.
Fiat Chrysler reported Jeep brand sales dropped 2% for the quarter and 6% for the year. Ram brand was up 15% as the automaker continued to sell its new and old Ram pickup models. Ram sales were up 23% for the year. Sales fell at all other Fiat Chrysler brands. Sales for all brands totated 565,034.
“The U.S. auto market continues to be hyper-competitive, which is driving the large volume of unique rates and incentive programs,” said Brad Korner, and industry analyst and general manager of Cox Automotive Rates and Incentives. “Incentive volume was high in September, even without a Labor Day weekend. As this is sell-down season, and with the industry working through a lengthy GM strike, the chances of incentive volumes being reduced is very low. I’d fully expect 2019 to be a record in terms of incentive program volume.”
The Detroit Three recently transitioned to reporting sales figures each quarter. The rest of the industry still publicly reports monthly sales figures.
September sales results were largely in-line with what industry analysts expected. Automotive sales are plateauing, and automakers that had braved slowing sales over the past year thanks to portfolios packed with the SUVs and crossovers U.S. consumers largely craved are now seeing sales slow.
Subaru of America said September sales fell 9.4%, breaking a years-long streak of sales increases for the automaker flush with reliable, durable crossovers. Subaru’s U.S. sales were still up 4.4% for the year.