High gas prices and a summer of heavy discounting sent sales of sport utility vehicles plummeting last month for U.S. automakers, according to an Associated Press report.
Asian manufacturers that had avoided the employee-pricing lures Detroit offered, saw their results less affected.
Several automakers reported strong car sales in their monthly reports released this week, but SUVs took a hit industrywide in the U.S. market as gas prices skyrocketed following Hurricane Katrina.
Sales of the GMC Envoy and Chevrolet Tahoe fell more than 50% compared to last September. The Cadillac Escalade, Mazda Tribute, Ford Explorer, Ford Expedition, Toyota Sequoia and Nissan Armada all saw their sales fall by 18% or more. Dodge Durango sales were down 11%.
General Motors Corp. sales were down 24% overall as its SUV and truck sales fell 30% while its car sales dropped 14%. GM’s overall sales were flat for the first nine months of the year.
GM said it knew September would be a challenge after a summer of heavily promoted discounting. GM began letting consumers pay the employee price in June and ended the promotion Friday.
”We’re coming off the three strongest months in the history of the industry,” said Paul Ballew, GM’s executive director of market and industry analysis.
Ford Motor Co. also took a hit, with sales down nearly 20% in September. Ford, Lincoln and Mercury car sales rose 6%, but sales of trucks and SUVs fell nearly 28%. The company’s overall sales were also flat for the first nine months of the year.
Ford attributed the declines to the strong summer. Ford began allowing customers to pay the employee price in July, and the incentive helped deplete the automaker’s 2005 inventory. George Pipas, Ford’s U.S. sales analysis manager, said the company expects SUV sales will stay soft in the near term.
Ballew cautioned that gas prices aren’t the only reason for falling SUV sales. He said an aging lineup of SUVs and more options in car-based crossovers also are affecting the segment.
Strong pickup sales were further proof that gas prices aren’t the only factor in the SUV’s decline.