By on October 1, 2011

September Light Vehicle sales, which will be out on Monday, could rise to levels not seen since April, analysts surveyed by Bloomberg reckon. The consensus average stands at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 12.8 million units. The people who have the real time sales data even think it’s a bit higher: Jessica Caldwell of Edmunds figures 12.9 million SAAR, Jesse Toprak of  Truecar even expects 13.1 million. And guess who saved the American bacon? The Japanese.

The American factories of Toyota and Honda are running at full tilt. Toyota already pre-announced that it has turned the corner and expects to reverse monthly U.S. sales declines next month. Honda is running two Ohio plants on overtime shifts.

“The big story this month was better inventory and favorable pricing” for consumers, said Jessica Caldwell of Edmunds. This means that incentives are back up.  It will be a hot fall and winter: From my talks with Japanese manufacturers I expect aggressive sales campaigns well into the next year to make up for lost volume. It will be a tough battle for American manufacturers that already had piles of cash on the hoods of their cars when supply was tight. It will be an even tougher battle for GM, which already was leading in incentive spending.

For September, analysts still expect minus signs in front of the growth rates of Toyota and Honda, which is strongly expected to change in October.

Analyst  GM Ford  Chrysler  SAAR
Patrick Archambault (Goldman Sachs) 15.0% -1.3% 13.0% 12.4
George Magliano (IHS Automotive) NA  NA   NA 12.4
Chris Ceraso (Credit Suisse) 14.0% 4.0% 16.0% 12.6
Peter Nesvold (Jefferies) 24.0% 1.6%  NA 12.7
Himanshu Patel (JPMorgan)  NA  NA   NA 12.8
Brian Johnson (Barclays) 17.0% 7.0% 25.0% 12.8
Seth Weber (RBC) 21.0% 8.0% 24.0% 12.8
Alan Baum (Baum & Associates)  NA  NA   NA 12.8
Adam Jonas (Morgan Stanley) NA  NA   NA 12.8
Jessica Caldwell ( 19.0% 11.0% 23.0% 12.9
Itay Michaeli (Citigroup)   NA  NA   NA 12.9
Rod Lache (Deutsche Bank) 21.0% 8.5% 22.0% 13.0
Jeff Schuster (J.D. Power)   NA  NA   NA 13.0
Jesse Toprak ( 21.0% 8.5% 20.0% 13.1
Average 19.0% 5.9% 20.0% 12.8

Once all the sales numbers are in, we will also announce the results of our monthly Grade The Analysts competition. The rules will remain the same as last month: We will grade on a combo of correct SAAR and correct calls on the Detroit 3, with severe punishment for those analysts who only give a SAAR number. With SAARs varying from 12.4 to 13.1 million, and with more analysts giving numbers for the Detroit 3, the race should become interesting.

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13 Comments on “New Car Sales: September Surprise?...”

  • avatar

    “And guess who saved the American bacon? The Japanese.”
    I didn`t know having a SAAR of 13 million was saving American bacon. Also compared to August 2011 (when production for Honda and Toyota was still an issue) Toyota is predicted to lose ground along with GM and Chrysler. Whilst Honda and Ford do well with around 1% of gain. If the increased September production was to help a lot then shouldn`t Toyota have gained market share? Especially when they offer 2011 Camry’s with 0% finance and $500 cash back (ads on TTAC itself). Doesn`t really look like the Japanese “helped” that much. I expect VW will have done well. I know Bertel likes to sing the praises of the Japanese and usually these are well deserved.

    • 0 avatar

      mike978, ANY increase in sales in America is a benefit to our economy, no matter who saves our bacon.

      The spin-off benefits directly tied to an increase in sales means far fewer lay-offs and a possible uptick in demand.

      When the new owners took over a dealership sold by one of my brothers in Alabama the first thing the new owners did was to ‘let go’ overhead staff and a few sales people because sales were down. Had sales been up, maybe that would not have happened.

      With Toyota going back to full-throttle and Hyundai doing its best to meet nation-wide demand, let’s hope this is a sign of good tidings, because CEO’s of corporations large and small are not all that optimistic about the remainder of 2011, and many are downright pessimistic about the economy after the Holidays.

      More people getting ‘let go’ is not going to help new car sales at all. But what we really need is a solution to the housing situation because 80% of people being underwater on their mortgage is just plain bad.

    • 0 avatar

      I didn`t know having a SAAR of 13 million was saving American bacon.

      Demand is good for an economy.

      And I know that you’d like to believe otherwise, but an American-built car with a Japanese brand is better for US economic growth than is a Mexican-built car with an American brand. Most of the benefit to the US economy comes from the point of assembly, as that is where the lion share of the money is spent and the jobs are created.

      • 0 avatar

        PCH – “And I know that you’d like to believe otherwise” – you don`t know that so don`t presume to speak for me. I think it is great for Americans to be employeed by Toyota, VW, Nissan, Honda etc. It is a win-win for both the companies and the US.

        Car sales (for one month at least) may have increased slightly (<10%). I get that it is good, how much we will see. However my main point was around the "Japanese" being the ones rescuing us – when the data shows Honda and Ford doing well (one Japanese, one American) and GM,Chrysler and Toyota losing a little ground compared to August 2011 (again a mix of American and Japanese). So it doesn`t seem as clear cut as one countries manufacturers (whereever the factories are based) saving us.

        Hopefully I am wrong but I expect some will next year in TTAC tout the year on year growth for Honda and Toyota as signs of brillance, rather than comparing to a weak 2011 (for the perfectly understandable reason of the earhquake and tsunami).

      • 0 avatar

        Most Americans would agree that Americans employed by the transplants are a good thing for the employees and America as a whole. Except for the UAW.

        Don’t misunderstand. I’m all for the employees at the transplants being given a choice to unionize or not, as long as it is a secret ballot. But the UAW is opposed to that as well, and have said so repeatedly.

        From that perspective I hope that all the transplants pack up their toys and move ALL their US production to Mexico. The stuff that Ford and GM have made in Mexico is top notch.

        More people should look seriously at the Fusion. One of our teachers traded her Camry in on a 2011 Fusion and for around 20-grand she got a lot of high-quality car. A similar Camry would have cost her $24K easy.

      • 0 avatar

        However my main point was around the “Japanese” being the ones rescuing us

        Mr. Schmitt is hypothesizing that the end of tsunami-related production constraints is resulting in more inventory being produced, which will increase pressure to reduce transaction prices, which will increase sales volumes, thus raising the SAAR. Those inventories would not be building without the transplants getting back to normal, hence his observation.

      • 0 avatar


        I agree the Fusion is a good car for the money (especially when Ford has been putting $2-3,000 on the hood all year), but if you’re looking more at the 20-22k range, you ought to look at a Focus, too.

        After hating my 2010 Forte EX for 13 months (long list of problems with it that Kia refused to fix or pay for) I traded it in a few weeks ago for a Focus. I had gone to the dealership to look at Fusions, and the Focus had better NVH and felt like a better, higher quality vehicle overall than the Fusion did. Granted I got a hatch, you could get a sedan and save almost a grand, but it’s still worth looking into.

      • 0 avatar

        tuffjuff, thanks, but I, myself, am not in the market.

        We will probably be trading my wife’s Japan-built 2008 Highlander for an RX350 either next year (2012) or when the 2013 models come out. Her Highlander recently passed the 60K-mile mark and the warranty has long since expired. Better to trade it now while it still retains a lot of trade-in value.

        I think I will keep my 2011 Tundra 5.7 a while longer. Amazing truck and certainly the best one I have ever owned.

  • avatar

    My suspicion is that people are simply getting sick of driving over-sized vehicles. After five years or more, owners have an excuse to get rid of these paid-for beasts.

    At 18,000 miles a year, a 15 mpg vehicle runs up a gas bill of $350 a month. Going to 26 mpg saves about $150 a month on gas. That $150 takes quite a bit of sting out of a car payment, especially when replacing an aging vehicle.

    I know that most people here have a buddy who can keep a 400K mile Tahoe or Panther running for $100 a year in junkyard parts and a case of Busch Light. Most people don’t have such friends and their economics of car ownership are drastically different.

  • avatar

    My buds that still work at chrysler say they are going balls out to keep up with demand…yet everywhere around me the economy still sucks…what’s going on?

  • avatar

    When I moved to Indiana 12 years ago from briefly living in Cali, I recall thinking how the majority of cars on the road here were from the Big 3 (a lot of Pontiac’s) which was just different. Now just last Wednesday, I had to run over to my Honda dealer for quick service with my daily driver Civic (and it’s actually my third Civic I’ve owned). While there it was interesting to see that the new Civics now say built here in Indiana.

    Then while sitting at a stop light on my way back to the office I counted that there were seven other cars at the intersection. Two were Toyotas, two Hondas, one Kia and two Chryslers. I just found that interesting vs. 12 years ago.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve been seeing “more” US-brand cars out there recently while car-counting. Maybe it’s the new Fusions, Cruze and other models hitting the road due to the sales up-tick of US-made brands.

      I’m in the market for something new, but it’s not urgent. Keeping my eye on the EREV market – either Volt or Ford C-Max Energi next year. (no real feelings for Fisker just yet) The Volt should make news this month for its big uptick in sales. Darn the cost, though – to get the technology, the initial cost is pretty high versus any econobox.

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