Sales of American-brand full-size trucks, such as the Ram pickup (photo) and Chevrolet Suburban, outpaced industry growth by a comfortable margin

Sales of American-brand full-size trucks, such as the Ram pickup (photo) and Chevrolet Suburban, outpaced industry growth by a comfortable margin

Even without the Labour Day weekend, which went to August sales this year, September offered further proof the US light vehicle market remains robust.

Industry sales were up 9.4% year on year to 1,245,786 units, translating to a seasonally adjusted annualised rate of 16.43m cars and light trucks. That’s over 1m sales ahead of September 2013 but down 1.1m from August’s torrid pace.

Light trucks claimed 53.4% of total sales, significantly more than the 50.1% share last September. Crossovers are still the major factor in the growth but sales of American-brand full-size trucks, such as the Ram pickup and Chevrolet Suburban, also outpaced industry growth by a comfortable margin.

In spite of a shortfall at Ford, the Detroit automakers had a good month. Sales of Chrysler, Ford and General Motors vehicles rose 11.3% and market share rose 0.8 points to a 46% share.

The big new is General Motors’ September 19.4% surge, the highest growth of any of the major automakers. The jump was driven primarily by light truck volumes, up 28%, accompanied by a 30% jump in fleet sales, including a 46% increase in commercial van sales. With the sell-down of inventories of Ford’s bestselling Econoline [replaced by the Transit], GM’s Express and Savanna are the last traditional American-style full-size vans on the market.

GM’s full-size pickups and large SUVs turned in impressive numbers: Silverado sales rose 54.4% and the average gain for GM’s Suburban, Tahoe and Yukon was 37.4%. The bean counters at the Renaissance Center are no doubt celebrating as these are among GM’s most profit-laden products.

GM’s new mid-size Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon mid-size pickups made their debut in September. The new trucks are nice, drive well and are very feature-competitive with existing offerings in this segment but it remains to be seen whether there's room in the segment for more players or if the new GM trucks can drive expansion in the market.

Chrysler posted its 54th consecutive month of sales growth by delivering more light vehicles than Toyota and taking the third spot in the rankings for the month. Chrysler truck sales rose 29.7%, accounting for 76.8% of total sales, the highest September percentage in at least 15 years. Jeep was again the big winner, followed by Ram. Chrysler brand sales increased thanks to double-digit improvements from the 200 sedan and the Town & Country minivan.

Ford was one of the few automakers to miss its mark. Soft car sales and transitions from the old F-series to the new pickups and from the bestselling E-Series van to the new Transit bore much of the blame, as did weak sales of continuing Lincoln models.

With the nearly simultaneous changes to the F-series, which accounts for roughly 30% of Ford’s sales, the shift to the Euro-styled Transit and the dropping of the V8 from the Expedition, Ford is rolling the dice as if it was in Las Vegas instead of Dearborn.

Nissan North America enjoyed another good month with both cars and light trucks contributing to the 18.5% increase.

Mercedes-Benz came storming back in September, easily taking the top spot in the premium segment while setting a new September sales record. BMW was the month’s runner-up with Lexus dropping back to third.

Other records were set by Audi, Maserati and Subaru.

Several industry watchers have raised their full-year forecasts to 16.4m sales or better which is in line with the current trends. Should the fourth quarter follow the trends of the past four years, 5% growth or 16.4m to 16.45m deliveries looks to be a fair estimate.

Manufacturer SEP 14
SEP 13 Volume Change Daily Sales Rate Change
Chrysler Group 169890 143017 18.8% 13.8%
Ford Motor Co. 179518 184452 -2.7% -6.7%
General Motors Co. 223437 187195 19.4% 14.4%
Detroit Total 572845 514664 11.3% 6.7%
American Honda 118223 105563 12% 7.3%
Mazda North America 23890 22464 6.3% 1.9%
Mitsubishi 5558 4001 38.9% 33.1%
Nissan North America 102955 86868 18.5% 13.6%
Subaru* 41517 31755 30.7% 25.3%
American Suzuki 0 0 N/A N/A
Toyota Motor Sales* 167279 164457 1.7% -2.5%
Japan Total 459422 415108 10.7% 6.1%
Hyundai 56010 55102 1.6% -2.6%
Kia 40628 38003 6.9% 2.5%
Korea Total 96638 93105 3.8% -0.5%
BMW North America 29805 28874 3.2% -1.1%
Daimler AG* 30271 27476 10.2% 5.6%
Jaguar Land Rover 4248 4700 -9.6% -13.4%
Maserati North America* 1318 379 247.8% 233.3%
Volkswagen Group** 44815 48389 -7.4% -11.2%
Volvo Cars North America 4667 4188 11.4% 6.8%
Other (est.) 1757 1495 17.5% 12.6%
Europe Total 116881 115501 1.2% -3%
Total Light Vehicles 1245786 1138378 9.4% 4.9%
Manufacturer Market Share SEP 14 Market Share SEP 13 Calendar Year-To-Date 2014 Calendar Year-To-Date 2013 Volume Change
Chrysler Group 13.6% 12.6% 1556059 1357003 14.7%
Ford Motor Co. 14.4% 16.2% 1877715 1887672 -0.5%
General Motors Co. 17.9% 16.4% 2207888 2117459 4.3%
Detroit Total 46% 45.2% 5641662 5362134 5.2%
American Honda 9.5% 9.3% 1160605 1159012 0.1%
Mazda North America 1.9% 2% 240953 220490 9.3%
Mitsubishi 0.4% 0.4% 58365 44981 29.8%
Nissan North America 8.3% 7.6% 1063272 941116 13%
Subaru* 3.3% 2.8% 375485 313407 19.8%
American Suzuki 0% 0% 0 5946 -100%
Toyota Motor Sales* 13.4% 14.4% 1794788 1698179 5.7%
Japan Total 36.9% 36.5% 4693468 4383131 7.1%
Hyundai 4.5% 4.8% 557458 548218 1.7%
Kia 3.3% 3.3% 445017 416383 6.9%
Korea Total 7.8% 8.2% 1002475 964601 3.9%
BMW North America 2.4% 2.5% 275779 262200 5.2%
Daimler AG* 2.4% 2.4% 259076 236953 9.3%
Jaguar Land Rover 0.3% 0.4% 50254 47806 5.1%
Maserati North America* 0.1% 0% 9125 2241 307.2%
Volkswagen Group** 3.6% 4.3% 439740 463168 -5.1%
Volvo Cars North America 0.4% 0.4% 43851 48193 -9%
Other (est.) 0.1% 0.1% 21425 19910 7.6%
Europe Total 9.4% 10.1% 1099250 1080471 1.7%
Total Light Vehicles 100% 100% 12436855 11790337 5.5%