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Domestic Auto Sales Off 12% in Late August

September 05, 1986|STEPHANIE DROLL | Times Staff Writer

DETROIT — Those discount financing programs offered by the domestic auto makers that have sent consumers rushing into dealer showrooms came too late to boost monthly sales in August.

Sales of U.S.-built cars in the final 10 days of August were the second-best ever posted for the period but still down 12% from the record pace in August of 1985, the auto makers reported Thursday.

Industry officials were quick to point out that the new incentive programs offering two-year car loans ranging from 2.9% by General Motors and Ford to 0.0% by American Motors were introduced very late in the month and won't show up fully until September sales reports.

Domestic new car sales skyrocketed to record levels late last summer when the manufacturers, in a move similar to this year's round of incentives, introduced 7.7% discount financing on left-over 1985 models. But those programs were kicked off by General Motors on Aug. 15, compared to an Aug. 28 introduction date this year.

Import Sales Climb

"We couldn't catch last year's sales record for August 21-30 because it was the first full sales period under the 7.7% program," said James G. Vorhes, vice president of GM sales and service. "However, with only three days of sales impact from the new program, this year's passenger car deliveries were the second highest for August 21-31 in history."

For the month, domestic new car sales were off 6.1%. Despite sales declines by the top Japanese makes, import sales were up 13.1% in August.

Analysts said the increase by imports was due almost entirely to the success of new entries into the market. Hyundai, the South Korean car company, has been reporting increased monthly sales since it began selling cars in the United States in February.

"Import sales are going down and supplies are going up as a result of the price increases," said Tom O'Grady, president of Integrated Automotive Resources, an industry forecasting firm. If the trend continues, he added, the Japanese auto makers may be forced to join in the incentive game.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, domestic new cars sold at an annual rate of 8.9 million in August, down from 1985's rate of 9.5 million. Imports sold at a 3.3-million rate, up from the 2.9-million rate posted in August last year.

Light truck sales proved to be a bright spot for both domestic and import manufacturers. U.S. manufacturers sold 216,445 light trucks in August, up 22.2%, while import truck sales of 67,415 were up 16.5%. Auto Sales Percentage changes in auto sales for the month of August are based on daily rates rather than total sales volume. There were 26 selling days in the 1986 period and 27 selling days in the year-ago period.

% August 1986 1985 change GM 377,440 429,278 -8.7 Ford 162,030 185,523 -9.3 Chrysler 100,569 98,325 +6.2 AMC 5,569 11,465 -49.6 VW U.S. 6,453 6,561 +2.1 Honda U.S. 21,201 9,987 +120 Nissan U.S. 49 3,625 -98.5 DOMESTIC 673,311 744,764 -6.1 Toyota 50,138 63,288 -17.7 Nissan 47,807 51,129 -2.9 Honda 31,735 33,620 -1.9 Mazda 16,880 19,256 -8.9 Subaru 13,964 18,548 -12.4 Volvo 10,091 8,273 +26.8 Hyundai 20,689 -- -- VW Imports 12,000 13,479 -7.6 Others* 75,496 50,291 +55.9 IMPORTS* 278,800 255,894 +13.1 TOTAL U.S. 952,111 1,000,658 -1.2

*Estimate

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