US September auto sales dip on fewer selling days versus year ago

01 October 2013 21:07  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--US automakers reported lower September auto sales on Tuesday, but the drop was not unexpected as there were fewer selling days in the month this year than last.

US automakers sold cars and light trucks at a 15.3m unit annual rate in September, higher than the 14.8m unit rate last year, but down by 4% from the 16m unit rate the industry reported in August, according to Autodata. It marked the first month-to-month decline since May 2011. September had fewer selling days this year, automakers said, because part of the US Labor Day holiday, which typically falls in September, was counted as part of August.

Among the former Big Three US automakers, Ford posted the best results with  a year-on-year gain of 5.7%, while Chrysler sales rose by about 1% and GM's sales declined by 11%, according to Autodata. GM was mostly hurt by worse-than-expected sales of its new Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks.

The Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, auto forecasting firm also reported that Toyota sales were down by 4.3%, Nissan's fell by 5.5%, Volkswagen's declined by 7.4%, and Honda's dropped by nearly 10% compared with a year ago. Mercedes-Benz reported a 7.6% uptick in sales compared with a year ago.

While the monthly sales decline was explained by fewer selling days, some analysts were starting to question the full-year sales rate, which has been above 15m units every month since November 2012. Some are concerned that it may be a sign that the US market can't sustain auto sales in the 16m unit annual range.

Some analysts cited the fact that US Consumer Confidence fell to a five-month low in September on fears of higher interest rates and sluggish economic growth. Job growth and household income are also sluggish, and there are early signs that the holiday shopping season will be flat for many retailers.

Business confidence has dipped, as well. According to a survey by the Business Roundtable, half of all top executives said Washington's budget battle has curtailed hiring plans.

All of these factors - and auto sales - are key for petrochemical firms that supply raw materials such as acrylonitrile, acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene, nylon and polycarbonate to the auto industry.

By: Mark Yost
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