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September Incentives : Car Sales Up 43.6% to Break 12-Year Record

October 04, 1985|STEPHANIE DROLL | Times Staff Writer

DETROIT — Sales of new cars soared 43.6% in September, auto makers reported Thursday, as buyers hurried to take advantage of rebates and cut-rate financing on leftover 1985 models.

The U.S. auto companies said their sales were up a whopping 48.1% in September, breaking a 12-year-old record for the month.

Even though most imported makes offered no sales incentives, import sales rose 29.2% in September from the year before. Foreign-made cars accounted for 21.3% of all U.S. sales last month, which was lower than the imports had been taking earlier this year.

Analysts said the reduced market share reflected the domestics' bigger rise in sales.

The month's spectacular results also closed the books on the domestic car industry's model year. The auto makers reported that 8.38 million U.S.-built 1985 models were sold, a 6% increase over the 1984 model year. A model year begins in October when the new year's models are traditionally introduced and ends the following September.

Combined sales of imported and domestic makes in September climbed 43.6% to 1.07 million.

For the second consecutive model year, the Chevrolet Cavalier was the No. 1 selling car in the nation with sales of 422,927. The Ford Escort ran a close second with sales of 410,978, and the Chevrolet Celebrity placed third as dealers delivered 360,167 of the mid-size cars.

Analysts and industry officials attributed the recent sales burst to lower-rate loans and rebates that the domestic companies made available on their leftover 1985 models. The programs began in August, sending domestic car sales to record-setting highs ever since.

"The seven-week program of 7.7% financing on 1985 models resulted in the best clean-up of past models in GM's history," said James G. Vorhes, General Motor's vice president of sales and service.

All the programs expired this week, however, prompting analysts to predict that sales of domestic cars will now fall off sharply.

"It's not a question of whether (domestic) sales will fall, but rather how much they will fall," said John Hammond, an industry analyst with Data Resources. He added that, if sales drop, he expects the auto makers to introduce a new round of incentives on their 1986 models, perhaps as soon as November.

The seven domestic auto makers said they sold 314,120 new cars, or an average of 39,265 a day, in the last 10 days of September, up 59% from 1984 and breaking the record of 33,765 set in 1978. (Imports do not report sales on a 10-day basis.)

For the month, the daily sales rate of domestic cars was 34,974, far surpassing the 23,611 of last year and beating the record of 31,397 set in 1973.

Year-to-year percentage increases are calculated from the daily sales rate.

Import makes sold 2.67 million cars in the 1985 model year, an increase of 11.7% from the 2.39 million sold in the 1984 model year.

It was the best model year ever recorded by the importers, a fact analysts said was due in part to the easing of Japanese import quotas.

"This model year only includes six months of the new quota year for which the ceiling was raised by 24%. The big sales months (for importers) are still to come," Hammond said.

Combined domestic and import sales for the 1985 model year equaled 11.05 million, a 7.2% increase over the 10.31 million cars sold in the 1984 model year. It marked the first model year that sales have reached 11 million cars since 1978.

U.S. AUTO SALES BY MODEL YEAR

September Model Year % % Manufacturer 1985 1984 change 1985 1984 change GM 462,879 305,203 +51.6 4,694,973 4,659,818 +0.7 Ford 229,403 157,021 +46.1 2,170,410 1,906,806 +1.0 Chrysler 108,906 74,530 +46.1 1,144,682 946,575 +20.0 AMC 12,188 13,439 -9.3 137,493 201,275 -31.7 VW U.S. 6,492 4,814 +34.9 71,334 83,078 -14.1 Honda U.S. 12,873 11,655 +10.3 149,674 117,180 +27.7 Nissan U.S. 6,641 -- -- 21,077 -- -- DOMESTIC 839,382 566,672 +48.1 8,383,444 7,914,738 +5.9 Toyota 40,578 34,805 +16.6 600,759 542,675 +10.7 Nissan 51,747 33,767 +53.2 526,002 477,729 +10.1 Honda 20,442 26,674 -23.3 379,421 365,969 +3.6 Mazda 19,734 14,874 +32.7 184,038 168,475 +9.2 Subaru 19,675 15,178 +29.6 151,976 160,406 -5.2 Volvo 6,550 6,093 +7.5 100,489 98,586 +1.9 VW Imports 13,285 6,696 +98.4 117,238 95,525 +22.7 Others * 56,489 38,706 +45.9 611,428 482,031 +26.8 IMPORTS 228,500 176,793 +29.2 2,671,351 2,391,396 +11.7 TOTAL U.S. 1,067,882 743,465 +43.6 11,054,795 10,306,134 +7.2

*Estimate

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