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US auto sales skid 5% in September

Keywords: Tags  Auto sales, General Motors, Ford Motor, Chrysler Group, Hyundai Motor, Kia Motors, Kurt McNeil, Sue Yingzi Su Jenny Lin

CHICAGO — U.S. sales by the top seven automakers totaled 965,351 vehicles in September, down 5 percent from nearly 1.02 million in the same month last year but the year-to-date total of 10.13 million vehicles remained 7.9 percent ahead of the first nine months of last year, according to an AMM analysis.

It is hard to predict what impact—if any—the federal government shutdown may have on sales in October, the automakers said.

The top seven automakers sold an average of 41,972 vehicles per day in September, up 3.2 percent from 40,657 a year earlier, when there were two more selling days.

Bucking the downward trend in September, Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford Motor Co. recorded sales of 185,146 vehicles, up 5.8 percent from the same month last year, and Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Chrysler Group LLC sales increased 0.7 percent to 143,017 vehicles.

Detroit’s General Motors Co. and Seoul-based Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. saw double-digit sales declines last month.

"We expect that car-buying fundamentals will remain strong," Kurt McNeil, GM’s U.S. vice president of sales, said during the automaker’s Oct. 1 sales conference call. "For example, a recent drop in jobless claims signals that we should see further acceleration in payrolls. Add to that an accommodative monetary policy, a recovering housing market, low energy prices and rising household wealth, and it’s clear that we should be in good shape going forward."

He said the auto industry should not be affected by the government shutdown as long as it is short.

Recalling the impact of the debt ceiling debate in August 2011, GM senior economist Sue Yingzi Su said that partisan fighting caused a drop in consumer confidence but auto sales held up pretty well. "And now the fundamentals of the economy (are) much stronger than in 2011 and consumers’ (expectations) have also improved dramatically from the trough in 2011," she said. "We think it’s fair to say we should be able to weather the turbulence at this time."

Jenny Lin, senior U.S. economist for Ford, said the disruption in government operations adversely affects direct government spending, business and consumer confidence and financial markets. "So we urge our government leaders to continue to work together and we remain hopeful that this shutdown won’t be very long."

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