August car sales accelerate into the fast lane for American car companies

American Pick-ups are still the top selling vehicles in the U.S.

With the heat of the summer months dying down, and the third quarter almost over, the U.S. auto industry is still feeding its fire in the hopes of finishing the year off strong with August car sales on target for record setting sales.  The Ford F-series pickup continues to be the top selling vehicle in America having sold 58,201 units in August. Also in the top five were the Chevy Silverado pick-up (38,295), Toyota Camry (36,720), Honda Accord (34,848), and surprisingly the Ford Escape (28,188) which ousted the Nissan Altima from its July spot.  The Kia Optima has fallen out of the top 20 for August and now that Japan’s Big Three are back in full force after last year’s tsunami, Kia will struggle to keep its shining star on top. Only time will tell if the Optima can penetrate the market enough to sustain Kia’s recent gains.

General Motors maintained its position as top manufacturer with an 18.7% market share (240,520 vehicles), increasing 10.1% over last year. Buick was the frontrunner in annual growth and the early success of the new Verano implies that the future looks bright for G.M.’s affordable luxury brand. Cadillac also fared well in part due to the new XTS sedan which aided the top performing CTS and SRX. GMC did not fare as well; it had the lowest year over year sales growth at only 3.7%.

For Chevy, the Volt was the leader (in percentage of gains) for August and has increased sales almost eight fold. Although 2011 was not a good year for the Volt, it seems to have overcome its issues and is now setting itself up as a real contender among PHEV’s. Chevy is taking an active role in helping the sales of the Volt by offering multiple incentives including attractive lease offers and tax credits. The Silverado pick-up had the largest sales volume of all Chevy vehicles followed by the Cruze and the Equinox.

The Chrysler Group made serious strides during August achieving its 29th month of year over year sales gains and a 14% hike in sales. All brands (Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram, and Fiat) under the group achieved an increase in sales over the same period last year. Year to date sales have exceed 1.1 million and have already surpassed 2011’s 8 month sales by 25.7%. The Chrysler 300 was especially victorious as it achieved its best August sales in the last 5 years with a 65% increase. The Chrysler 200 sedan, which replaced the now discontinued Sebring, appears to be gaining a steady following and it demonstrated this by setting a personal sales record for the month.  Also the Town and Country minivan sold 11,405 units, which marked its best sales numbers for August within the last six years.

Dodge had the most successful month of all the Chrysler brands, with a sales volume of 47,348 units. The new Dodge Dart is expected to fare extremely well in the compact car segment as it replaces its predecessor the Caliber. Compact cars have long been cited for their lack of power and driving feel; Dodge hopes to change that with something that could be a step up from the Honda Civic, with a lower entry price at $15,995 for the SE model and $22,495 for the top model R/T. The Dodge Journey saw an increase in sales at 58%, as did the Caravan (35%), and the Charger (30%).

Fiat, Chrysler’s latest addition to the American market, was up 34% and has now added the 500 turbo as the fourth member of its lineup, thus meeting the demand for a turbo charged compact vehicle. The rest of the lineup (Fiat 500, 500 Cabrio, and 500 Abarth) have all posted personal gains since their debut. So far, it’s safe to say that Fiat has been successful in catering to an expanding niche market for European style vehicles. Fiat is affording buyers the opportunity to join a movement for cars that can break the boundaries of regionalism and be truly cosmopolitan; a concept that America has not explored for decades. If Fiat can continue to move in a positive direction and gain a wider market share within in its class it could effectively trigger the entry of more foreign models into the U.S.

August proved that there is still a fighting spirit among brands in the American market. Before 2012 is over there is sure to be a clear indication of what’s in store for the future of this industry and with the presidential election on our heels that answer may come much sooner than we think.

Jibbin Abraham is an undergraduate student pursuing a degree in Business and Marketing at Binghamton University. He enjoys following the latest automotive trends and developments in the U.S. as well as abroad and spends his free time reading various auto websites and blogs. His ultimate goal is to pursue a career where he can mesh his passion for business and for cars. Jibbin brings an unique perspective to TFLcar with a passionate eye toward the latest trends and comprehensive, expert and in depth automotive industry analysis.