US Auto Sales Power Up In August

Auto sales in the US were up strongly in August, led by booming demand for pickup trucks and large SUVs. Lower gas prices have sent a signal to shoppers that now is the time to gorge themselves with the largest and thirstiest vehicles on the market. Fortune magazine says U.S. auto sales were the strongest in 10 years. We have to go back to July 2005 to find a month with more sales. Based on August numbers, Autodata Corp projects total sales for the year will top 17.8 million vehicles — well above the 17.3 million it had projected earlier.

US auto sales are surging because of demand for pickup trucks

Ford said sales of its F-Series pickup trucks topped 70,000 for the first time this year. It recorded sales of 71,332, up 4.7%. Mark LeNeve, head of Ford’s U.S. sales, said Ford SUV and truck sales both rose about 12% while car sedan sales fell 7%. GM’s Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks together outsold Ford’s F-Series, at more than 76,000. Silverado sales rose 11.7% and Sierra sales were up 7%. Bill Fay, head of Toyota brand sales in the U.S. market, pointed out that U.S. consumer confidence in August was at its highest since January.

Sales of family sedans tumbled in August, however. Toyota reported an 8.8% decline in August. Chrysler sales rose 2%, mostly because of strong sales of Jeep SUVs and Dodge Ram pickup trucks. Honda reported a drop of 7% and Nissan sales dipped 1%.

Fox Business News reported earlier that GM started ramping up production of its largest trucks and SUVs. As of August 1, GM added Saturday overtime shifts at its Arlington, Texas, assembly plant where full-size SUVs like the Chevrolet Suburban, GMC Yukon, and Cadillac Escalade are made. The move will add as many as 60,000 vehicles to GM’s output for model year 2016.

“Industry sales are running ahead of expectations, sales of our full-size SUVs are very strong and we have been working to find creative ways to increase production to meet demand and rebuild our inventories,” GM spokesman Jim Cain said in a statement.

“It’s sort of antithetical to what’s going on with CAFE” fuel economy standards, said Jack Nerad, executive editorial director and analyst at Kelley Blue Book. “Going forward, it might indicate that consumer demand is at odds with fuel economy regulations.”

Gee, Jack, do ya think?

[Editor’s Note: If the SUVs are electrified, though, automakers will easily crush CAFE standards.]

Steve Hanley

Closely following the transition from internal combustion to electricity. Whether it's cars, trucks, ships, or airplanes, sustainability is the key. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.