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Strong auto sales continue to defy recession talk

September 27, 2011 |  8:47 am

Volvo

A consensus is building that September was a better month for auto sales than the industry expected. And it could be an indicator that the U.S. economy is not slipping back into a recession.

Auto information company TrueCar.com forecast that the annualized U.S. auto sales rate will hit 13.1 million this month. That’s up from about 12 million in August and the best since April.

"New vehicle sales are doing particularly well, even with worries of a recession and another wild month for the financial markets in September," said Jesse Toprak, a TrueCar analyst. "If the current trends hold, we expect 2011 total new light vehicle sales to be 12.75 million units -- up 10% from 2010."

Ford Motor Co. executives also are reporting that September should be the carmaker's best month since late winter and early spring, when sales were running at about the 13-million pace.

J.D. Power and Associates is forecasting September auto sales at a 12.9-million pace.

That 13-million mark is seen as an important economic indicator. Economists say a sales pace that brisk is unlikely in an economy that is shrinking.

Moreover, sales are strengthening without automakers resorting to huge discounts and sales incentives.

TrueCar estimates that the industry spent an average of $2,716 per vehicle on incentives this month, up almost 4% from August but down by nearly 1% from September of 2010

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Will automobiles keep the U.S. from recession? 

-- Jerry Hirsch
Twitter.com/LATimesJerry

Photo: A 2012 Volvo S60 waits for transport to a dealer after arriving at the port of Savannah, Ga. Credit: Bloomberg

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