US auto sales stay strong in Sept.; VW flat

The China Post - - WORLD BUSINESS - BY JOHN BIERS

Most au­tomak­ers re­ported another strong month of U.S. sales in Septem­ber on Thurs­day, while Volk­swa­gen’s sales were es­sen­tially flat in the wake of the Ger­man com­pany’s pol­lu­tion-cheat­ing scan­dal.

Gains year-over-year in sales were dou­ble-digit strong at Gen­eral Mo­tors (+12.5 per­cent), Ford (+23 per­cent), Toy­ota (+16.2 per­cent) and Fiat Chrysler (+14 per­cent).

Light­weight ve­hi­cle sales to­taled at 1.44 mil­lion, up 15.8 per­cent from a year ago. The an­nual rate of sales, a closely watched bench­mark, rose to 18.2 mil­lion, the fast- est pace since July 2005, ac­cord­ing to Au­to­data.

At Volk­swa­gen, a com­par­a­tively small player in the U.S., sales edged up 0.6 per­cent, re­flect­ing in part a mid-month halt to sales of diesel cars af­fected by the U.S. in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Ger­man com­pany’s emis­sions con­trols, the com­pany said.

“We would like to thank deal­ers and cus­tomers for the sup­port of the Volk­swa­gen brand,” said Mark McNabb, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer, Volk­swa­gen of Amer­ica. “Volk­swa­gen will con­tinue to work dili­gently to re­gain trust and con­fi­dence in our brand.”

Volk­swa­gen has been un­der fire since U.S. en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tors an­nounced on Sept. 18 that the com­pany had vi­o­lated air-qual­ity rules by in­stalling soft­ware on nearly 500,000 diesel cars in­tended to evade U.S. emis­sions lim­its for ni­tro­gen ox­ide and other dan­ger­ous pol­lu­tants.

Sales at the Volk­swa­gen-owned lux­ury brand Audi rose 16.2 per­cent in Septem­ber, lift­ing to­tal sales from the two com­pa­nies to 43,481, about 3,000 ve­hi­cles more than ex­pected by the online car site Ed­munds.com.

Ed­munds had been among those pre­dict­ing the VW scan­dal would not mar the hot auto mar­ket, a bright spot in the U.S. econ­omy.

“Volk­swa­gen’s de­cep­tion is dom­i­nat­ing head­lines, but it is not keep­ing shop­pers away from other brands’ show­rooms,” Ed­munds an­a­lyst Jes­sica Cald­well said in a note last week.

“It puts the cri­sis in a lit­tle bit of per­spec­tive, since these Volk­swa­gen diesels don’t con­sti­tute a very big share of sales. It’s also a re­minder that buy­ers won’t dis­ap­pear from the mar­ket just be­cause they sud­denly can’t or don’t want to buy these af­fected cars. They’re will­ing to turn to other au­tomak­ers that will meet their needs.”

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