New-car sales in August continued a trend that dates to May: massive gains for Toyota and Honda relative to an earthquake-stymied 2011, with solid — albeit smaller — gains among other major automakers. Both Japanese automakers led the march toward higher auto sales as the industry’s seven biggest automakers gained 20.4% in August sales. By day’s end, we could see the best annualized sales rate since spring as higher incentives and more credit availability sent shoppers to showrooms. It comes despite rising transaction prices, which are up $2,338 or nearly 8% on the average car versus August 2011, according to CNW Marketing Research.
The highest gains among big sellers came from the Honda Accord and Civic, whose combined sales nearly doubled, even though a new Accord is just around the corner and the redesigned Civic received lukewarm reviews. Toyota Corolla and Matrix sales increased nearly 50%, and Japan’s three biggest automakers gained 37.9% in August sales. That’s more than three times the percentage gain for their Detroit Three rivals.
But Detroit had its own winners, including the new Ford Escape and popular Chevrolet Cruze. That’s good news for GM: The Cruze had a bad July, leaving dealers with a 91-day supply of the compact sedan to start August — 37 days more than the industry average. GM continues to sell the car with few incentives, which could bolster resale values for Cruze owners down the road.
GM sales increased 10.1%, but Chevrolet Malibu sales fell 18.8%, leaving it off the top sellers list for the second month in a row. The redesigned 2013 Malibu should help, GM says, as it replaces “depleted stocks” of 2012s. Ford, meanwhile, jumped 12.6% on strong demand for the F-Series pickup and the automaker’s crossovers, as well as the Focus and Fusion cars. F-Series sales gained nearly 20% on slight incentive gains, and that’s before a refreshed 2013 F-150 reached dealers en masse.
Pickup sales fought seesawing factors as higher gas prices battled sustained growth in the housing market, with annualized housing starts this year outpacing almost every month in 2011. The result? It’s hard to say. Sales for full-size pickups gained 15.8% — good, but below industry gains for the month.
Here are the top 10 sellers: