Torrid U.S. car sales pace slowed in September

Wed Oct 1, 2014 2:57pm EDT
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By Bernie Woodall and Paul Lienert

DETROIT (Reuters) - U.S. auto sales in the third quarter were the best in eight years, but mixed September results from leading automakers on Wednesday indicated the industry's torrid summer pace is slowing.

Industry sales in September rose 9 percent, to 1.24 million vehicles, according to research firm Autodata, just missing expectations of nine analysts surveyed by Reuters. The annualized sales rate slowed to 16.4 million, according to Autodata, above last year's 15.4 million, but well below the 17.5 million pace in August.

"The rate of growth in industry sales is beginning to moderate," Ford chief economist Emily Kolinski Morris said on a conference call. "We are getting closer to what would be a likely plateau in terms of the industry sales pace."

General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote), Fiat SpA's Chrysler Group FIA.MI, Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T: Quote), Honda Motor Co (7267.T: Quote), Nissan Motor Co (7201.T: Quote) and Hyundai Motor Co (005380.KS: Quote) all reported year-to-year sales gains on Wednesday, but Ford Motor Co (F.N: Quote) said sales fell slightly from a year ago. And while Toyota's and Honda's sales were up, both companies missed analysts' forecasts.

Third-quarter sales were "the best for the industry since 2006," said Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president and general manager.

In September, Ford sales fell 3 percent, to 180,175, as the automaker slowed production of the F-150 pickup truck, the best-selling vehicle in America, to prepare for the launch of the redesigned 2015 model. Analysts surveyed by Reuters expected a similar decline.

F-150 sales dipped 1 percent, with Ford's small cars and crossovers showing bigger declines. Ford's Lincoln brand jumped 13 percent, bolstered by the new MKC compact crossover.

GM sales increased 19 percent, to 223,437, about what analysts predicted. The automaker's full-size Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups soared 47 percent to 66,939. GM's premium Cadillac brand was flat.   Continued...

A group of Chevrolet Camaro cars for sale is pictured at a car dealership in Los Angeles, California April 1, 2014. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni