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Published: Fri, September 02, 2016
Economy | By Melissa Porter

US auto sales expected to drop in August

US auto sales expected to drop in August

Sales slumped 13 percent at Mazda and 9.1 percent at the VW brand, where US volume has slid every month beginning with November as the company struggles to move past violations of USA diesel emissions rules.

"After more than six years of steady growth, it's clear the auto industry has finally peaked, ' said Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book".

The company said its streak of increased monthly sales from December 2009 until November of a year ago did not happen, based on the revised figures. And it's not just the traditional US automakers under pressure from investors: Toyota Motor Corp., Daimler AG and BMW AG have all dropped 17 percent or more in 2016.

In July, the seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales ticked up to 17.88 million units, compared with 17.59 million in July 2015, according to Autodata. Toyota's sales were down 5 percent, Honda's fell 4 percent and Nissan's dropped 6.5 percent.

General Motors Co. said its Cadillac sales grew 4 percent, thanks in part to its new CT6 sedan and XT5 SUV.

Fiat Chrysler's sales rose 3% in August, defying a gradual industrywide decline on the strength of its Jeep brand and fleet sales, which accounted for 24% of the total.

"Our retail strength is reflected in our record ATPs in August, which were up more than $1,600 from last month and almost $5,800 above the industry average, while our incentive spending was below the industry average and well below our domestic competitors", Kurt McNeil, head of U.S. sales for GM, said in a statement.

The pattern of steeper-than-predicted declines held true for Ford and General Motors as well as for Japan-based makers Toyota, Nissan and Honda. Sales of the Lincoln MKX SUV rose 50 percent last month. While some of that can be attributed to selling fewer trucks to fleet buyers, Ford essentially declared the death of runaway auto sales growth on a conference call. Ford's best-selling F-Series trucks decreased 6 percent to 66,946 units. Ford's vehicle sales plummeted 27 percent; its Fusion sedan, despite a recent remodel, was down 33 percent.

Audi also posted a 2.5% sales increase, but Volkswagen, which has been in year-long sales slump, said its sales dropped 9%. Ford sold a total of 213,411 vehicles in August, excluding its heavy trucks, down 8.8 percent.

Fiat Chrysler bucked the downward trend, posting a 3% increase in US sales.

Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst with Autotrader.com, said small and midsize auto sales are dropping despite good deals, like zero-percent financing for five years on a 2016 Toyota Camry.

An internal review ordered in mid-2015 by top Fiat Chrysler executives uncovered thousands of vehicle sales reported by FCA brands for which there were no actual buyers, according to two company.

Automakers haven't been chasing sales at any cost, the practice that helped force GM and Chrysler to restructure through bankruptcy in 2009.

Analysts for Autorader and KBB noted in a conference call Thursday that there continues to be strong demand for trucks, and very weak demand for cars in the U.S. Non-luxury vehicle sales are down 11 percent on the year so far, while SUVs and crossovers are up about 9 percent.

Ford's LaNeve said the company will manage supply with demand, but when asked if production will be slowed or plants shut down to accomplish that goal, he declined to say. She said they could cut production or just roll out bigger incentives to move inventory, or do a combination of both.

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