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Import auto brands fare better than domestics in September sales

October 02, 2012|By Jerry Hirsch
  • The 2013 Toyota Avalon on display last tweek in Dallas. Toyota's U.S. auto sales rose more than 40% in September compared with a year earlier.
The 2013 Toyota Avalon on display last tweek in Dallas. Toyota's U.S.… (Associated Press )

Most of the import car brands had a roaring month in September but the biggest two U.S. automakers lagged behind.

With the exception of Nissan, the major foreign nameplates had strong, double-digit sales gains, with Toyota and Honda rebounding from depleted inventory and sales levels caused by the earthquake in Japan a year ago.

Toyota reported monthly U.S. sales of 171,910 vehicles, up 41.5% from a year earlier. Honda sales jumped 30.9% to 117,211 vehicles. Subaru had September sales of 27,683, a 32% increase.

Nissan, however, reported sales of 91,907 vehicles, down 1.1% from the same month a year earlier.

Volkswagen Group of America said it sold 36,339 vehicles in the U.S. last month, a 34.4% increase and its best September since 1972.

The South Korean brands also did well. Hyundai Motor America said its U.S. sales increased 15% in September to 60,025 vehicles. Kia Motors America said its U.S. sales jumped 35.1% in September to 48,105 vehicles.

"The Kia Optima had one of its best months of the year .... The model continues to attract attention even with all the noise of the big name redesigns in the segment," said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with auto information company Edmunds.com. "Those big-name models, as it turns out, are good for cars like Optima because midsize car shoppers are likely to stumble on to it as they research the redesigned and refreshed competitors."

Meanwhile, General Motors Co. said its sales rose almost 2% to 210,245 vehicles, its highest September U.S. sales since 2008. Ford Motor Co. sales stalled. The carmaker sold 174,976 vehicles in September, about 200 fewer than the same period a year earlier.

Of the American brands, Chrysler Group had the best month, selling 142,041 vehicles in the U.S., a 12% improvement from the same month a year earlier and its best September since 2007.

The retail segment of the auto industry — cars sold to consumer rather than rental car companies, governments and commercial customers — continues to grow.

“Retail sales in early September were 15% higher than they were a year ago, which is reflective of a healthy market,” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of global automotive operations at J.D. Power and Associates. “We expect retail sales to level off through the rest of the month, but still maintain a strong share of total sales.”

Overall the industry is expected to have sold more than 1.1 million vehicles in September, about a 12% gain. Automakers are on track to sell about 14.4 million vehicles this year, also up about 12% from 2011.

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Follow me on Twitter (@LATimesJerry), Facebook and Google+.

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