By on October 2, 2018

2019 Ram 1500 eTorque

Dealerships across America were awash in red last month, both from the ink spilling across financial ledgers and the anger emitting from corner offices. Just about every marque was off in September and not by insignificant amounts. This can be blamed on a number of factors, not the least of which was last year’s pent up demand after a devastating Hurricane Harvey and this year’s Hurricane Florence having the opposite effect.

One ray of sunshine? Fiat Chrysler, which finally got its Ram production in gear and started delivering snazzy new pickup to eager customers in a big way. Of course, having the perpetually strong-selling Jeep brand on the books didn’t hurt, either.

A close look at the numbers in this chart reveal a stat the market hasn’t seen since 2015: the whole of FCA outsold the whole of Ford, this time by about 4,000 units. FCA was fuelled by a 14 percent jump at Jeep and a 9 percent leap at Ram. While those two numbers are but snapshots in time, it is worth pointing out that sales for three quarters of this year — a much larger sample size and a better yardstick with which to measure success — sees Jeep jump an astonishing 19.9 percent to 746,194 units. That’s fewer than 200,000 machines than the rest of the company combined.

At General Motors, which sees fit to grace us with actual numbers only on a quarterly basis, dealers delivered 694,638 vehicles in the third quarter of 2018. Down slightly (1.2 percent) when compared to the same time last year, the company boasted of average transaction prices rising about $700 per unit, year over year, to a new third quarter corporate record of $35,974.

September sales at The General did decline 11 percent, year over year, with the impact of hurricanes sharply increasing both industry and GM sales this time in 2017 and depressing them somewhat this year. Note: GM’s fleet deliveries, up 5 percent year over year, were about 21 percent of total sales during the quarter.

Year to date at the Blue Oval, cars are off an unsurprising 17.4 percent, which is what happens when a company announces the death of all of its product except the Mustang. Wide swaths of customers tend to avoid vehicles whose date is already carved on a tombstone. The gain in trucks and SUVs, 1.1 and 3.2 percent respectively, is so far not enough to make up for the Glass House’s flatlining car division.

Trucks trucks trucks narrative aside, Honda pointed out that its electrified offerings — comprised of the Accord Hybrid, Insight, and Clarity Plug-in Hybrid — combined for nearly 6,000 September deliveries. Honda noted fuel prices topping $4.00/gal in some parts of the country, an observation standing in stark contrast to the strong performance of trucks.

If one needs any further proof of the value of trucks and SUVs (we’re pretty sure no one does, but this month’s numbers makes the point abundantly clear) check out the September results for Genesis and Subaru. One is laden with crossovers and all-wheel drive units. The other isn’t.

The third quarter light vehicle SAAR was 17.2 million units in 2017 and 16.9 million in 2018. If the market does indeed crest 17 million units this year, it’ll be due to an unexpected late-year surge.

Anyone in your cadre of pals pull the trigger on a new machine last month? Chime in below.

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56 Comments on “U.S. Auto Sales, September 2018: An Athletic Fiat Chrysler Leapfrogs Ford...”


  • avatar
    Fred

    Tesla for the win?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Tesla was more like 29975, with 22250 of that being the Model 3. And Tesla in September 2017 was closer to 8000, but the lower figures fit the The “Truth” About Cars narrative much better.

    https://insideevs.com/monthly-plug-in-sales-scorecard/

  • avatar
    xtoyota

    How many are defective ????

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    This is highly, statistically likely to be the start of a significant and relatively long period of declining new vehicle sales.

    Economic growth in terms of efficiency on every per unit dollar spent peaked somewhere between August 2015 and January 2016, and the marginal efficiency of dollars spent/invested/borrowed by households, small biz, corporations, and government has been on the decline since then.

    Much investment that did not get started until before somewhere in the 2016 calendar year will be determined to be horrible malinvestment, in hindsight, and even a significant chunk of the 2014-2016 period is highly vulnerable to discretionary spending downturn.

    We are now firmly in very late cycle economy notionally expanding (but actually near or at contraction levels in terms of marginal utility and when adjusted for inflation and things such as debt service increases) whereby massive debt on part of households, corporations and government are masking slowdown (as just one example of this, publicly traded non-financial companies now have 6.3 trillion in debt, much of that which was used to fuel stock buybacks, versus capex expenditures, in order to support share price and make shareholders and, especially, executives with large vesting packages happy; those execs on share plan have been selling into corporate buybacks at record pace).

    Watch what pickup truck sales do between now and EOY to get into deeper sign of whether next downturn will be as deep or deeper than last, for different reasons possibly (corporate and government debt has grown at much higher % than household debt, but this won’t save households once redemptions cascade due to decline in equity and real estate markets -‘it’s all interconnected no matter what segment is loading up on debt -‘and happy 21.6 trillion in U.S. Government debt as of today, a higher ratio of debt to U.S. GDP than at many points during WWII).

    This is madness of crowd economy with irrational, over-restauranted, over-hoteled, over-fighter jet-ed, over commercial aircrafted, over vehicle production, over artisan shop-ed over RVed, over watercrafted, over craft beer/distillery’d, over everything, bubbles everywhere, where optimism is irrationally high by sheeple, who will be the first to see reduced pay/cash flow and also be fired during upcoming next downturn, while many massively indebted corporations that took advantage of low interest rates to sell bonds will struggle to roll that debt over into a fresh batch of bonds in rising interest rate environment while managing to service existing debt in era of declining revenue – see GE’s numbers yesterday).

    Watch pickup truck sales for thunder 4 month period for hard proof of slowing manufacturing and housing/construction sectors.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      DW, I have been pondering this as well and I think their is one way this narrative changes. While I agree that new car sales are going to decrease, I actually think that increasing interest rates will help and perhaps start to put pressure on the inflated used retail market.

      I have already seen the effects; interest rates on used are an easy 2 points higher across the board from 18 months ago. If the manufactures decide to continue applying support to subvented rates we may come back to the scenario where it is cheaper or close to buy new versus a comparable unit used.

      I do somewhat agree with your assessment of the pretty much ‘over’ everything economy. I don’t get it, don’t people get tired of stuff? Or eating out? The restaurants are horrible, I have to subject myself to them due to being on the road for work. Otherwise I enjoy my home cooking.

      It may not pan out this way, but I think it will help some to keep the new car faucet turned on.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        87 Morgan,
        I have been looking at this as well.

        The Fed has to move interest rates up. This will push up the USD against competitors. US tariffs on inputs (comodities) for manufacturing, plus the devaulation of the Yuan due to Trump’s Trade Tirade will remove much of the effect of Trump’s Chinese import tariffs. So Chinese imports into the US will feel less impact than the Trumpeteers consider.

        China has won this round.

        Higher interest rates, plus I think a further downgrading of the US’es credit rating, with the costs increases of consumer goods and services, less exports due to metal tariffs, increased USD and other nations imposing retaliatory tariffs on US imports will lead to a decreased tax take by the IRS, and a reduction in the US standard of living.

        Tough times ahead for the US is my prediction and Trump has p!ssed off enough around the world, so it will be interesting to see what concessions others offer the US.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I currently have no debt, but you make me glad I didn’t pull the trigger on a Model 3 last week. The cost was one of the reasons.

    • 0 avatar

      According to NL P.Krugman sovereign debt does not matter and may be even good for economy. According to his editorials in NYT.

      • 0 avatar
        jfb43

        The Keynesians have never encountered a bad time for the government to rack up debt. It can be argued that the govt should spent a lot during recessions, but it’s definitely not intelligent to increase the debt during good times when there should be budget surpluses.

        Anyway, when everyone is raving about how good EVERYTHING is, it’s usually about the time to sell everything and wait for the impending doom. I’ve been waiting for nearly 9 months for the retraction, but it seems that fake money, rigged financial markets, and delusional market actors can alter natural events (or at least postpone them).

        • 0 avatar
          87 Morgan

          jfb43..for sure. I have cut way back on investments this year after liquidating a lot of them last year. Hanging out on the sidelines waiting for asset prices to come down and watching them go up! Every now and again I find myself breathing into a paper bag to calm down the FOMO response.

        • 0 avatar

          Tell that to Bob Brinker. Fully invested.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            S&P & Dow have never been more expensive, and NASDAQ is almost there.

            CAGR indicates U.S. stocks are most expensive in history, even surpassing roaring 20s.

            Divergence between small cap and large cap is extreme, publicly traded companies have most debt on balance sheets in history (in actual, real, adjusted dollar terms) – even Buffett index is flashing red (if you’re into that).

            But “Brinker…” is “still fully invested.”

            You got me, man.

            “October 16, 2000, Brinker issued a special bulletin advising subscribers to  “Act Immediately” and buy QQQ in anticipation of a 2 to 4 months “counter-trend rally”  — for a 20% or more gain. Callers to the office were told “Bob is comfortable with QQQ at $86.” The advice in the  bulletin was:  Aggressive investors told to put 30 to 50% of cash reserves into QQQ.  Conservative investors recommended to put 20 to 30% of cash reserves  into QQQ.

            November 6, 2000, Marketimer (QQQ=$81.00) Page one: Brinker said: “Marketimer subscribers with aggressive objectives can invest up to 30% to 50% of cash reserves in either the QQQ shares or Rydex OTC Fund in order to participate in this recommendations. That translates into potential exposure of 19.5% to 32.5% of a TOTAL AGGRESSIVE PORTFOLIO. (30% of 65% CASH RESERVES equals 19.5%. 50% of 65% cash reserves equals 32.4%). The balance of reserves remain in money market funds.
            Conservative subscribers can invest up to 20% to 30% of cash reserves in this recommendation, using either QQQ shares or Rydex OTC Fund shares. That translates into potential exposure of 6.5% to 9.75% of a total BALANCE PORTFOLIO. (20% of 32.5% cash reserves equals 6.5%, 30% of 32.5% CASH RESERVES equals 9.75% of a BALANCED PORTFOLIO. The balance of reserves remain in money market funds.”
            November 6, 2000, Marketimer, Page two, Brinker said: “In sum, Subscribers can us a portion of their 65% stock market cash reserve position in order to purchase QQQ shares or Rydex OTC Fund….within our page one percentage guidelines.”

             Brinker said he would give follow-up guidance. Marketimer November, 2000, he said: “During the life of this recommendation, we will provide regular followup guidance in each monthly edition of Marketimer.”  

            October 5, 2002 Marketimer, Bob Brinker said: “We are now in the 31st month of one of the worst cyclical bears since the 1930’s. We recommend continuing to hold stock market cash reserves at this time. We also recommend retaining existing stock market holdings, as we do not view the current period as a propitious time to be a seller of equities.” (October 15, 2000 QQQ closed at $81.70; October 7, 2002 QQQ closed at $20.16)

            He kept his word for 30 months while QQQ crashed over 70%.”

            When Bob Brinker talks, people listen.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        Inside Looking Out,
        Tell that to Greece.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      Heh… and I just read a blurb from an analyst saying his model indicates a contraction isn’t even on the radar or I think more specifically his model indicated the economy wasn’t even at the mid-point indicating a contraction.

      I can’t remember who it was but it just flies in the face of your observations and what I’ve read elsewhere.

    • 0 avatar
      deanst

      Why do I get the impression that a missive from DW has been run through google translate a few times?

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        New phone, same typos when I simply must type a hasty response to someone referencing the likes of Bob Brinker as being anything other than a moron.

        To be clear, I’m not and wasn’t making future prediction about equity marketing which has some very artificial legs for the time being (though I wouldn’t buy now with Bob Brinker’s d!ck), but rather commenting on actual, real economy, and not buyback-juiced U.S. equity market.

  • avatar
    brn

    Despite the headline, I notice that Ford is the #1 selling brand.

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    What’s behind the huge monthly increase at Dodge? 29k to 42k?!

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    The problem with some of the guesses is that while hurricane Florence depressed sales in the 3rd quarter, it is likely to increase sales in the fourth due to millions of cars now needing replacement due to floods across North and South Carolina, parts of Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia. All those people directly impacted by flooding will need to buy transportation and while I admit not all of them will be brand-new vehicles, many will.

    And as to the original question in the article, “Anyone in your cadre of pals pull the trigger on a new machine last month? Chime in below,” I can tell you that I did purchase a new vehicle on the very last reporting day of the quarter. A mid-sized pickup truck and therefore NOT a Ford.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    I purchased a new 2018 Silverado Crew Cab 4WD LTZ last month. I made a purchase earlier than expected-due to ugly front end of the 2019 Silverado-And a $25,000.00 trade in allowance on my 2012 Sierra SLT, plus factory incentives and dealer discount. Made the purchase VERY AFFORDABLE.

  • avatar

    Ford was foolish to announce the cancelling of their cars several years before it was suppose to happen. I think it is obvious people don’t want to buy a car destined to be cancelled. There is now a risk those potential Ford car buyers are going to another company to purchase their next car. For this reason it will be interesting to see if FCA’s lead over Ford is temporary or a permanent trend.

    It is really amazing how much damage Hackett has done to Ford in a relatively short time.

    • 0 avatar
      Shawnski

      It will stabilize once new products come to market.

    • 0 avatar

      Extremely bad decision made by the furniture guy. He instantly made all Ford cars (except Mustang) undesirable lame duck products with questionable future resale. A desperate attempt to boost the stock price by appealing fickle Wall Street gurus without thinking about the ramifications for auto customers.

      • 0 avatar

        It did quite the opposite since Ford’s stock price is close to an all-time low. Ford’s stock has been under 10.usd for 12 straight weeks. A month ago Ford nearly hit junk status.

        Last week GE get rid of their CEO just after a year on the job. The same could happen to Hackett.

        Nero fiddled as Rome burned, and Hackett rebuilds train stations as Ford falls behind lowly Chrysler.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    J8m HACKett will be fired unceremoniously within the next year.

    Ford’s sales/revenue/profit decline has just gotten started in earnest.

    Hackett is the worst volume automaker CEO on the scene today, which Is saying something.

    • 0 avatar

      A year? How about next week? For all the bitching about how the late Sergio trashed his own product, he never did as much damage as Hackett has done in year. It is genuinely breathtaking.

      The Ford family and Board have to be thinking, “at least Fields preserved the dividend.”

      So fire Hackett already. And while you’re at it, dispatch Billy “Deer in the Headlights” Ford to the Grosse Pointe Country Club bar, have him siddle up next to cousin Edsel and only invite him to family events. He ain’t helping.

    • 0 avatar

      A year? How about next week? For all the bitching about how the late Sergio trashed his own product, he never did as much damage as Hackett has done in year. It is genuinely breathtaking.

      The Ford family and Board have to be thinking, “at least Fields preserved the dividend.”

      So fire Hackett already. And while you’re at it, dispatch Billy “Deer in the Headlights” Ford to the Grosse Pointe Country Club bar, have him siddle up next to cousin Edsel and only invite him to family events. He ain’t helping.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Why place the blame on Hackett when he inherited the problem from his predecessor? Do you really believe a new CEO can fix an ailing system in just a few months when it typically takes YEARS to revamp a product line like cars?

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      This. people expecting a turnaround in one year when industry lead times are 3-4 years are insane.

      But hey, nobody knows more about the industry than a bunch of Internet self-proclaimed experts.

      • 0 avatar
        redapple

        Jim

        Agreed. There are a lot of experts on this site that have never been in a plant. Me, I ve been in over 300 different manufacturing plants and know a little bit, but not much.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Observation is key. After watching the automotive industry for several decades, you can usually see what’s going to happen BEFORE it happens.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Hackett essentially loudly announced advertised the whole line on Ford delving deeply into autonomy and alternative mobility/urban hipster’transport & also supported the decision to close shop on passenger sedans, while doing the copy/paste Silicon Valley in abandoned Train Depot act, also, which is a PR domain, not one focused on efficiencies and profitability in core vehicle manufacturing.

      If Hackett were to believed at face value for the things he’s already said publicly, one would be forgiven to believe that he truly believes the majority of urban commuters will be riding in autonomous pods, summoned by the FoMoCo smartphone app, by the year 2025.

      He’s a moron and he’s not a “car/truck guy” at all. He’s trying to reshape Ford’s image into that of a Mountain View tech company and is doing so in a very naive way, with a heaping pile of bullsh!t served up fresh nearly weekly.

      Steel filing cabinet guy has burning passion to be next Steve Jobs – jeans and black turtleneck comes next.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        “Hackett essentially loudly announced advertised the whole line on Ford delving deeply into autonomy and alternative mobility/urban hipster’transport”

        Uh, that happened when Fields was running things. can’t keep your story straight.

        • 0 avatar

          The problem for Ford is that the entire autonomous vehicle promise is the biggest con job since the pet rock. In the next five years Ford will waste billions on this technology, while other companies like Toyota work on improving their vehicles. Hackett seems obsessed with the latest technological novelties, but seems to have little grasp on what is feasible.

        • 0 avatar

          Neither is capable of doing the complex job. Fields was fired because he was brain-dead in handling Wall Street despite the F-series being his hit.

          I don’t know what Hackett can do except cut his way to profitability. That has never been an auto industry model for leadership or long-term survival.

  • avatar

    Ford tried the tech/Internet future approach with Jac Nasser. Then came the burst tech bubble, clashes with Billy Ford, the Explorer/Firestone fiasco and falling profits. Nasser got canned, Billy took over for 4 years and things got even worse.

    I really do think of the Ford Family as charter members of the Lucky Sperm Club.
    They chase after every bright shiny object and never learn.


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