Labor Day in August Makes Things Easier for Auto Sales

(Bloomberg) -- Automakers have the calendar to thank for what’s expected to be the second straight month of year-over-year U.S. sales gains, following a rough first half.

Total deliveries may have jumped 7% last month, according to Edmunds, helped by the inclusion of Labor Day weekend in August sales data this year. Cheaper financing offers also are giving consumers a lift, according to the car-shopping researcher, with the average interest rate on new-vehicle loans holding steady below 6% for a second month.

Labor Day in August Makes Things Easier for Auto Sales

“Shoppers who made it to the dealership this Labor Day weekend got to take advantage of slightly more generous offers than we’ve been seeing all year,” Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds’ executive director of industry analysis, said in a statement. “But this shouldn’t be taken as a sign of a dramatic turnaround in the market.”

Detroit’s three major manufacturers have stopped reporting monthly numbers, so tallies for August won’t include official figures from General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. or Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV. Other automakers, mostly foreign brands, generated about 56% of U.S. new-vehicle sales in the first half of the year, according to Edmunds.

Here are highlights from the automakers that are reporting results for last month:

VW’s Up-and-Down August

It’s hard to imagine a more polar-opposite performance among vehicle models than what Volkswagen AG saw in its own lineup last month.

Sales of VW sport utility vehicle soared 51% in August, while the German brand’s cars plunged 17%.

Labor Day in August Makes Things Easier for Auto Sales

The tale of two body styles also applies to VW’s lone U.S. assembly plant in Tennessee. Deliveries of the Atlas SUV made in Chattanooga more than doubled in August, but the Passat sedan that VW also builds there plummeted 85%.

Subaru’s All-Time Showing

Automakers usually save their best sales of the year for December, when year-end close-out and holiday promotions help move the metal. But not Subaru Corp.

The Japanese automaker in the midst of an epic 93-month streak of consecutive year-over-year gains set a record in August with 70,039 deliveries, up 9.3%.

The all-new Ascent SUV and Crosstrek crossover paced Subaru’s big month, surging 73% and 33%, respectively.

No Longer Going Rogue?

Nissan Motor Co. has been having a rough year, but the sales leader in its lineup showed signs of life last month.

Deliveries of the Rogue compact SUV jumped 25%, lifting the company to an overall gain of 13% in August.

Last month’s showing may make the race with Toyota’s RAV4 and Honda’s CR-V more of a three-horse contest, as it has been in years past. While Rogue sales are still down 12% for the year, that doesn’t leave Nissan too far behind in a key segment that’s supplanted the mid-size sedan as the new American family car.

Labor Day in August Makes Things Easier for Auto Sales

Honda’s Top-of-the-Heap Surge

Honda Motor Co.’s foes are going to have a tough time topping its showing in August, with total sales surging 18%.

The all-new Passport SUV has provided a major tailwind for much of the year, but the top-selling CR-V crossover also had a big month, with deliveries climbing 28%.

There was a strong performer in Honda’s car lineup, too: Civic sales increased 26%.

Toyota’s Fearsome SUV Foursome

Four of Toyota Motor Corp.’s big and small SUVs drove the carmaker’s 11% advance in August.

Deliveries rose 17% for the high-volume RAV4 and more than 20% for both the diminutive C-HR and the mid-size Highlander. Sales of the hulking Sequoia model soared 43%.

Hyundai Hops Firmly Onto SUV Bandwagon

Hyundai Motor Co.’s namesake brand has long been better known for cheap-and-cheerful passenger cars. No more.

During the first two full months of sales for its new three-row model, the Palisade, SUVs have become a solid majority of Hyundai’s U.S. deliveries. Total sales increased 12% last month driven by a record August for its SUV lineup.

Labor Day in August Makes Things Easier for Auto Sales

Hyundai is “working hard to increase dealer inventory to satisfy the tremendous demand” for the Palisade, Randy Parker, vice president of national sales for the company’s U.S. unit.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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