By The Numbers: September Sales Fall Like Leaves

Frank Williams
by Frank Williams

September wasn't kind to the auto industry. Total U.S. light vehicle sales ended the month 2.9 percent below September 2006. The year-to-date (YTD) news wasn't very encouraging either; sales for the first nine months of 2007 are 2.8 percent below the same time last year. Of The Big 2.8, only GM finished the month (barely) in the black. Ford, Chrysler, and Toyota all posted declines compared with last September. Looking at our four-wheeled sampler, separating the winners from the losers is a matter of seeing who lost less.

Passenger Cars

The bad news: Chevy's Impala dropped about 1800 sales from August. The good news: the sales stalwart's up six percent compared to September last year; up 13.9 percent YTD. Chrysler's once-mighty 300 ain't so mighty no mo'. September sales dropped 13.2 percent, while annual sales fell 14.9 percent. Fusion sales offered Ford a glimmer of hope, rising 9.6 percent for the month, racking-up a 1.3 percent gain for the year. Toyota's killer Camry continues its sales growth, up 5.7 percent on the month and 7.1 percent for the year.

Pickup Trucks

Rebates reigned supreme. Despite slapping more cash on the hood and even more generous financing incentives, Chevy Silverado sales rose just one percent for the month. YTD, sales are down 1.9 percent. Dodge is also throwing cash at Ram buyers, which helped jack-up sales by 20 percent. Annual sales are up just 0.6, but it's still a victory (of sorts). Smaller cash rebates and not-quite-so-cut-rate financing aren't helping Ford's F-Series; sales were off a whopping 20.8 percent, running 12.9 percent total behind last year. Toyota revived its incentive campaigns on the Tundra, sending the texas-built pickup on its way to meeting its first-year sales goal of 200k units. Tundra sales rose 55.2 percent for the month and 57.9 percent YTD.

Truck-Based SUVs

Although Chevy's Tahoe sales for the month leaped by an amazing 52.2 percent (fleets?), YTD sales slipped 9.2 percent. Dodge's Durango's sales are MIA, sinking a titanic 49.6 percent; it'down 29.8 percent YTD. The Ford Explorer was almost as lost, dropping 31.9 percent, losing 24.2 percent YTD. Toyota's not immune to the SUV exodus: 4Runner sales sank 2.7 percent, down 16.8 percent YTD.


After a brief rally in August, Chevy's Equinox dropped almost 5k units in September. It's down 4.1 percent for the month, and 21.1 percent for the year. The Pacifica is all at sea. September sales of Chrysler's hoary CUV are down a staggering 43.8 percent, and 29.6 percent below the first nine months of 2006. Ford's Escape helped The Blue Oval Boyz escape bankruptcy for another month. Escape sales rose 10.3 percent on the month and up 3.8 percent on the year. Toyota redesigned RAV-4 rocks. Sales increased 24.8 percent, 14.1 percent YTD.

New Models

Overall, GM's Lambda triplets (Acadia, Enclave, Outlook) racked-up over 12k sales in September. GMC's Acadia, up 800 units from August, continues to be the most popular of GM's Lambda CUVs. The Ford Edge continues edging-up from its drastic drop in July, with an increase of 1500 sales over August. Jeep's Compass wasn't so fortunate. It dropped 800 sales from August.

Total Sales

Although September sales fell below August's peak, GM finished the month 0.3 percent above the previous year. They're still below 2006 for the YTD, with a 6.6 percent drop. Chrysler and Ford both ended the month 5.4 and 20.4 percent respectively below September 2006. Chrysler is down three percent YTD and Ford is 13.3 percent lower YTD. Toyota finished below 2006 for the second month in a row, this time with a 4.4 percent deficit. However, YTD, they show a 3.8 percent increase.

The Future

As the 2007 model year winds down– with the usual clearance sales and the '08 models flooding into the showrooms– GM begins the new year with a new UAW contract. Under the new agreement, they're sure to force encourage a lot of their experienced workers to retire, resulting in a large labor turnover. What impact these changes will have on production, prices or quality remains to be seen. All three domestic automakers are saying the new union contracts will give them parity with Toyota and the other transplants. How quickly this will translate into better designs and an improved product– if at all– anyone's guess.

Frank Williams
Frank Williams

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  • Jthorner Jthorner on Oct 10, 2007

    "I’ll be the first one to say the same thing about Saturn one year from now if they haven’t turned the tide with their full line makeover." I don't think that Saturn has enough remaining mindshare to really drive sales increases. Their first generation enthusiasts were driven away by a long of tooth product line followed by a horrible makeover (Ion) and then followed by a complete submersion into the Borg. Sticking Saturn with a version of the horrible GM minivan for a few years probably didn't help either. Now Saturn has a few competitive vehicles, but with their avoidance of the incentive marketing game and the fact that more and more of their target market have already become loyal Toyota or Honda customers they aren't going to get enough consideration to move the needle. Oddly enough, if the new Saturns are as good as some say, the thing to do would be to seed them into the rental fleets in order to expose potential customers to the brand. The vast majority of the US car buying public doesn't give Saturn a thought. They don't have the history or loyalty factors of a Chevrolet or Ford and they lack the modern attention Honda and Toyota get. No history, no modern buzz and GM-like resale values. The thrill of paying full sticker for a new GM car has pretty much worn off! It isn't really "all about the product" as so many people like to say. Great product is the ante to get into the game, but having the ante doesn't make an automatic winner.

  • Johnson Johnson on Oct 10, 2007
    Frank Williams: I tried to find inventory information for Scion models, but Toyota apparently doesn’t report info on individual models. They also roll Scion’s total up with Toyota. I’ll keep looking to see if I can find anything from another source. Every once in a while an industry source like Automotive News publishes some inventory and days-on-the-lot data. Previously in past data, Scion models often had low inventory levels, which adds to the idea that Toyota is tightly limiting production in order to keep Scion a niche brand.
  • ToolGuy First picture: I realize that opinions vary on the height of modern trucks, but that entry door on the building is 80 inches tall and hits just below the headlights. Does anyone really believe this is reasonable?Second picture: I do not believe that is a good parking spot to be able to access the bed storage. More specifically, how do you plan to unload topsoil with the truck parked like that? Maybe you kids are taller than me.
  • ToolGuy The other day I attempted to check the engine oil in one of my old embarrassing vehicles and I guess the red shop towel I used wasn't genuine Snap-on (lots of counterfeits floating around) plus my driveway isn't completely level and long story short, the engine seized 3 minutes later.No more used cars for me, and nothing but dealer service from here on in (the journalists were right).
  • Doughboy Wow, Merc knocks it out of the park with their naming convention… again. /s
  • Doughboy I’ve seen car bras before, but never car beards. ZZ Top would be proud.
  • Bkojote Allright, actual person who knows trucks here, the article gets it a bit wrong.First off, the Maverick is not at all comparable to a Tacoma just because they're both Hybrids. Or lemme be blunt, the butch-est non-hybrid Maverick Tremor is suitable for 2/10 difficulty trails, a Trailhunter is for about 5/10 or maybe 6/10, just about the upper end of any stock vehicle you're buying from the factory. Aside from a Sasquatch Bronco or Rubicon Jeep Wrangler you're looking at something you're towing back if you want more capability (or perhaps something you /wish/ you were towing back.)Now, where the real world difference should play out is on the trail, where a lot of low speed crawling usually saps efficiency, especially when loaded to the gills. Real world MPG from a 4Runner is about 12-13mpg, So if this loaded-with-overlander-catalog Trailhunter is still pulling in the 20's - or even 18-19, that's a massive improvement.