March 2, 2021

Car Sales Improved in August; G.M. Up 18%

General Motors said its sales in the United States rose 18 percent from August 2010, and the Ford Motor Company reported an 11.2 percent increase.

Chrysler said sales were up 31 percent. That included a 58 percent increase for its Jeep sport utility vehicles.

August marked the 17th consecutive month of year-over-year increases for Chrysler, whose recovery is gathering momentum after being written off by many critics after its 2009 bankruptcy.

Nissan reported a 19.2 percent gain, and Volkswagen said sales rose 10.4 percent.

G.M. said it remains confident in its full-year forecast for the entire industry of at least 13 million sales, even as many analysts have chopped their projections recently.

“Consumers are being cautious, and appropriately so, but they are not retrenching,” said Don Johnson, G.M.’s vice president of United States sales operations, on a conference call. “All indications to us are that the industry is going to slowly grow for the rest of this year.”

Other carmakers were scheduled to report sales later Thursday. Analysts were forecasting another month of disappointing numbers from Toyota and Honda, whose inventories were decimated by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March. Nissan, which was able to return to normal production levels much faster, ran ads last month juxtaposing the abundance of inventory at its dealerships with bare Honda showrooms.

August began with uncertainty caused by the debt-ceiling debate in Washington, and ended with much of the East Coast focused more on the weather than on buying a new car. In addition, some shoppers probably stayed on the sidelines in the hope of getting a good deal during the upcoming holiday weekend, said Jeff Schuster, executive director of global forecasting at J. D. Power and Associates.

“We did see things get a little bit weaker as we got into the second half of the month,” Mr. Schuster said. “Many buyers are still conditioned to the strong Labor Day sales, so we could have seen some buyers pull back their purchase decisions waiting for some deals.”

From January through July, total industry sales rose 10.9 percent. Excluding the 7.1 percent decline at Toyota and 2.6 percent decline at Honda, rest of the industry was up 16.6 percent.

“The reality on the ground is not as bad as the market has inferred from the weakness in economic data,” Peter Nesvold, an analyst with Jefferies and Company, wrote in a report this week. “September will be the acid test of underlying demand for the rest of the year as headwinds from tight inventory and the debt ceiling debacle dissipate, in our view.”

Nissan pulled further ahead of G.M. last month in the battle between the Leaf electric car and the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid. Leaf sales for the month were 1,362, more than quadruple the Volt’s 302. G.M. halted production of the Volt this summer to retool in preparation for a large increase in production and said it is still working to build inventory of the car enough to meet demand. It has promised significantly higher Volt sales in the months ahead.

“Every unit that we ship right now is pre-sold,” said Alan Batey, the head of Chevrolet sales in the United States. “It’s essentially a magnet for us. It’s doing a wonderful job for the brand.”

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