Jaguar F-Pace is off to a very solid start in the US market this year

Jaguar F-Pace is off to a very solid start in the US market this year

US light vehicle sales continued soft in September, down 0.7% to 1.434m. However, the totals yielded a surprisingly robust seasonally adjusted annualised rate (SAAR) of 17.76m units, a solid rebound from August's 17.00m.  The rate is down about 290,000 sales from last September.

Year-to-date (YTD) sales are still slightly ahead of the first three quarters of 2015 so a new annual record is still possible, although the outlook isn't favourable.

September's deficit came despite manufacturers ramping up incentives about 2.5% compared to September 2015. They were down 0.2% compared to August of this year but the money still flowed: FCA increased its incentives by 22.8% to an estimated average of US$4,302 - the highest of any of the major automakers.

All three Detroit automakers missed their marks last month. A slump in Jeep deliveries put FCA in the red while a decline in fleet sales and passenger car turnover hit Ford with an 8.1% drop.

General Motors fared the best, taking a 0.6% trim as it continues to cut back on fleet sales.

The Japanese car companies came out ahead, thanks to record sales from Nissan and Subaru and a bump from Toyota.

Hyundai is rolling out its new Genesis brand and posted a new sales record. Kia had the best nine months in its history in the US but it couldn't quite hit its numbers for the month.

Jaguar has got to be the growth story for the month. Thanks to the new F-Pace and XE, deliveries rose 167.5% in September.

Audi enjoyed its 69th consecutive month of record sales and Bentley sales rose 155.0% as the new Bentayga became the best-selling model. Porsche posted a modest increase but all those positive numbers were wiped out by Volkswagen's continuing problems.

Crossovers and SUVs continued to command the lion's share of the light vehicle market but the segment's share is down from August. Pickup sales absorbed most of the lost share but passenger cars also regained a little.

Van sales were down in September with minivan sales taking an 8.7% hit.  Commercial van turnover was down 2.8% with a big slump in Chevrolet-brand vans.

Mid-size pickups, like the Toyota Tacoma, remain the driving force in the pickup segment. Sales of the highly profitable full-size trucks have slowed to a crawl, up just 0.9% last month, while the smaller trucks came in 54.4% ahead of last September. Fortunately for the accountants, mid-size trucks account for just 20.9% of the pickup segment.

Mercedes-Benz posted record numbers for September, adding padding to its lead in the premium segment. While the upscale brands delivered a small increase for the month, they now lag the first nine months of 2015. With Hyundai's new Genesis brand entering the fray, it will be interesting to see if there is enough pie to go around.

While it's fairly obvious that the US new vehicle market is getting ready to enter a correction phase, there is still reason to hope for a soft landing in the 15.5m-16.5m range next year.

Even with a mild contraction, competition is going to get increasingly fierce as automakers focus on market share. Automakers with new products will likely fare better than those with only incentives to offer and refreshes are going to become more urgent. In particular, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne may have to divert some cash from paying off debt to advancing some of the products that have been pushed back.

Members' Report: U.S. light vehicle sales

ManufacturerCurrent MonthVolume ChangeDaily SalesMarket ShareFull YearVolume Change
Sep-16Sep-15Rate ChangeSep-16Sep-1520162015
FCA US LLC192,883194,666-0.9%-0.9%13.4%13.5%1,714,3601,654,3243.6%
Ford Motor Co.203,444221,269-8.1%-8.1%14.2%15.3%1,977,2931,965,4820.6%
General Motors Co.249,795251,310-0.6%-0.6%17.4%17.4%2,212,3972,299,847-3.8%
Detroit Total646,122667,245-3.2%-3.2%45.0%46.2%5,904,0505,919,653-0.3%
American Honda133,655133,750-0.1%-0.1%9.3%9.3%1,228,3801,188,5663.3%
Mazda North America24,88925,616-2.8%-2.8%1.7%1.8%224,267241,706-7.2%
Nissan North America*127,797121,7824.9%4.9%8.9%8.4%1,183,0241,122,4885.4%
Toyota Motor Sales197,260194,3881.5%1.5%13.8%13.5%1,822,4191,867,403-2.4%
Japan Total545,710536,1621.8%1.8%38.0%37.1%4,979,3284,922,1221.2%
Korea Total115,830113,8351.8%1.8%8.1%7.9%1,079,4521,054,1702.4%
BMW North America29,41331,022-5.2%-5.2%2.1%2.1%269,044294,930-8.8%
Daimler AG33,07532,0873.1%3.1%2.3%2.2%278,404275,5961.0%
Jaguar Land Rover8,2996,85021.2%21.2%0.6%0.5%74,74059,61925.4%
Maserati North America1,18587136.1%36.1%0.1%0.1%8,1568,377-2.6%
Volkswagen Group**46,49148,016-3.2%-3.2%3.2%3.3%425,168452,714-6.1%
Volvo Cars North America5,6155,5271.6%1.6%0.4%0.4%58,53246,38126.2%
Europe Total124,078124,373-0.2%-0.2%8.6%8.6%1,114,0441,137,617-2.1%
Other (est.)2,7432,5806.3%6.3%0.2%0.2%24,41223,2205.1%
Total Light Vehicles1,434,4831,444,195-0.7%-0.7%100.0%100.0%13,101,28613,056,7820.3%

* indicates a sales record.
**Volkswagen Group figures include Audi, Bentley, Porsche and Volkswagen brands
Other includes estimated sales for Aston-Martin, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Lotus, Rolls-Royce and Tesla
Source: Manufacturer's reported sales