Fords Fusion was the top-selling US-brand car in September and YTD

Ford's Fusion was the top-selling US-brand car in September and YTD

September was a welcome change from the recent doldrums. Overall sales rose 9.8% to nearly 1.05m units, yielding a seasonally adjusted annualised rate of 13.1m; the first time the SAAR has broken the 13m unit mark since April.

Detroit automakers led the way as Motor City market share increased to 48.2%, up from 45.1% a year ago.

Chrysler posted another winning month: sales were up 26.9% and market share increased to 12.1%. Continued strong Jeep sales and an outstanding performance by the Ram pickup were among the contributors to Chrysler’s 18th consecutive month of sales growth. Retail sales were up 50% in September, a good sign for the bottom line.

General Motors’ numbers climbed 19.7% as it added 1.6 points of market share. Retail sales accounted for 74% of the total. Strong truck sales almost doubled the growth in car sales. The new GM Korea-designed, Ohio-built Sonic got off to a good start with 1,426 units delivered.

Ford car sales slumped but rising truck sales covered the deficit, providing an overall advance of 8.9%. The F-Series pickup broke the 50,000-unit mark and the Explorer exploded to a 203.6 % improvement. The Fusion outsold the Chevy Cruze, becoming the best-selling American-badged car in both September and year-to-date rankings.

Kia set another monthly sales record; matching its previous best sales year in just nine months. Sales of the new Optima soared 205.9%. Hyundai joined the party with all-time best September sales driven by the new Elantra.

Most Japanese automakers beat their September 2010 numbers. Nissan reported a 25.3% jump as it outsold American Honda again.

Mazda sales rose 37.4%, the largest increase reported in September. It was followed by Suzuki, which reported sales up 23.5%, and Mitsubishi, where deliveries climbed 17%.

Toyota and Honda slumped again; down 17.5% and 8.0%, respectively. Toyota’s only bright spot was Lexus passenger car sales, up 8.9%. Over at Honda, every line came up short except the Acura TSX, Honda Odyssey, Pilot and CR-V.

Both Audi and Daimler announced record September results. September was Audi’s ninth consecutive month of record sales. Parent Volkswagen delivered a 35.6% improvement as the Chattanooga-built Passat got a good start with 3,176 sales.

BMW continued to lead the luxury market and looks to be a good bet to topple Lexus from its long-held perch.

The Swedes split: Volvo sales rose 21.4% while Saab’s plunged 61.9% for obvious reasons.

Both Jaguar and Land Rover beat their 2010 numbers. Jaguar sales were up 14.9% bringing its year over year deficit down to 4.4%.

Trucks and SUVs were the big story in September. Sales of America’s beloved full-size pickups jumped 24.8%, claiming 13.8% of all light vehicle sales.

The end of the market distortion caused by the Japanese natural disasters is coming. Toyota and Honda are coming back up to speed. This could mean the incentives 'holiday' may come to a sudden halt in a hotly contested final quarter as Japanese automakers fight to regain share and Detroit fights just as hard to keep it.