U.S. Auto Sales, September 2018: An Athletic Fiat Chrysler Leapfrogs Ford

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy
u s auto sales september 2018 an athletic fiat chrysler leapfrogs ford

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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9 of 56 comments
  • Vulpine Vulpine on Oct 03, 2018

    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?

    • See 6 previous
    • Vulpine Vulpine on Oct 03, 2018

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

  • BklynPete BklynPete on Oct 03, 2018

    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.

  • MaintenanceCosts Despite my hostile comments above I really can't wait to see a video of one of these at the strip. A production car running mid-eights is just bats. I just hope that at least one owner lets it happen, rather than offloading the car from the trailer straight into a helium-filled bag that goes into a dark secured warehouse until Barrett-Jackson 2056.
  • Schurkey Decades later, I'm still peeved that Honda failed to recall and repair the seat belts in my '80 Civic. Well-known issue with the retractors failing to retract.Honda cut a deal with the NHTSA at that time, to put a "lifetime warranty" on FUTURE seat belts, in return for not having to deal with the existing problems.Dirtbags all around. Customers screwed, corporation and Government moves on.
  • Bullnuke An acquaintance of mine 50+ years ago who was attending MIT (until General Hershey's folks sent him his "Greetings" letter) converted an Austin Mini from its staid 4 cylinder to an electric motored fuel cell vehicle. It was done as a project during his progression toward a Master Degree in Electrical Engineering. He told me it worked pretty well but wasn't something to use as a daily driver given the technology and availability of suitable components of the time. Fueling LH2 and LOX was somewhat problematic. Upon completion he removed his fuel cell and equipment and, for another project, reinstalled the 4 banger but reassembled it without mechanical fasteners using an experimental epoxy adhesive instead which, he said, worked much better and was a daily driver...for awhile. He went on to be an enlisted Reactor Operator on a submarine for a few years.
  • Ajla $100k is walking around money but this is almost certainly the last Dodge V8 vehicle and it's likely to be the most powerful factory-installed and warrantied pushrod engine ever. So there is some historical applicability to things even if you have an otherwise low opinion of the Challenger.And, like I said up thread, if you still hate it will be gone soon anyway.
  • Carlson Fan GM completely blew the marketing of the Volt. The commercials were terrible. You'd swear they told the advertising company to come up with an ad that would make sure no one went out and shopped a Volt after seeing it!...........LOL My buddy asked why I bought a car that only goes 40 miles on a charge? That pretty much sums up how confusing and uninformative the advertising was.