Nissan Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC vehicle sales in the United States last month rose more than analysts estimated, and the maker of Jeep sport-utility vehicles said industrywide deliveries soared far beyond projections.
Chrysler said sales rose 20 percent, topping analysts’ projections for a 12 percent rise, and Nissan sales rose 12 percent, beating estimates for a 2.7 percent increase. Chrysler forecast an annualized sales pace for the market in August of 17.4 million, including medium- and heavy-duty trucks that typically account for at least 200,000 in annual sales. Full-year sales haven’t exceeded 17 million since 2001.
“Our Jeep brand continued its torrid sales pace recording its best August sales ever and our Ram Truck brand contributed with a massive 39 percent sales increase, both helping Chrysler Group achieve its 53rd-consecutive month of year-over-year sales growth,” Reid Bigland, head of U.S. sales, said in a statement.
Chrysler, wholly owned by Turin, Italy-based Fiat SpA, is on an unprecedented winning streak that now stretches to almost 4 years. As the Jeep brand benefits from consumers’ renewed attraction to SUVs, the Auburn Hills, Michigan-based group also has been aided by strong demand for Ram trucks and Town & Country minivans. Jeep sales rose 49 percent in August.
Other automakers will report U.S. August sales throughout the day. Total light-vehicle sales are forecast to be little changed at 1.5 million, according to analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. The month had one fewer selling day than a year earlier. Analysts had estimated a pace of 16.6 million, up from 16.1 million a year earlier, aided by cheap loans and rising consumer confidence.
For the full year, analysts estimate deliveries of new cars and light trucks will rise to 16.3 million, the highest since 2006, when 16.6 million vehicles were sold.
Chrysler is preparing to officially combine with Fiat in October to create the world’s seventh-largest automaker. Sergio Marchionne, chief executive for both companies, ordered an overhaul of Chrysler’s lineup when he took control after Chrysler’s 2009 bankruptcy. Now he’s pressing his advantage with hot vehicle models and generous incentives that have it gaining ground on competitors such as Ford Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co.
“Chrysler just continues to surprise us with the strength they have,” said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for researcher Autotrader.com. “The prospects weren’t good for Chrysler coming out of bankruptcy, but Marchionne had a vision for where Chrysler could go and he continually pushed the company.”
Nissan was the only other major automaker forecast to report an August increase. Ford and General Motors Co. may see declines of 1.2 percent and 0.1 percent, respectively. Toyota Motor Corp. sales are predicted to drop 3.3 percent and Honda’s may slide 9.1 percent, according to the estimates.
Hyundai Motor Co. sold 70,003 vehicles, the company said in a post on Twitter. That’s 5.9 percent more than the brand reported a year earlier. Combined with deliveries by Kia Motors Corp., the Seoul-based affiliates are projected to report a 0.9 percent decline, the average of eight estimates.
Since bankruptcy, Chrysler has introduced a well-received redesign of Jeep’s flagship model, the Grand Cherokee, and resurrected the smaller, lower-priced Cherokee SUV, with an edgy look that has attracted attention and buyers. Chrysler also overhauled the design of its Ram pickup, which was selected by journalists as 2013 North American Truck of the Year.
Through August, sales jumped 45 percent for Jeep and 21 percent for Ram pickups, leading Chrysler’s light trucks to a 24 percent gain.
Chrysler increased discounts in July to gain ground. The automaker’s incentives rose 13 percent that month to $3,471 a vehicle, according to researcher Autodata Corp. That’s more than the industry average of $2,883, while trailing Ford’s $3,501 and GM’s $3,680.
Low financing rates also are helping Chrysler and other automakers. Chrysler is offering no-interest loans for as long as 72 months on the 300 and 300C sedans, while Ford and GM are advertising similar financing on some models.
“Those are definitely getting attention from customers,” Jessica Caldwell, senior industry analyst for Edmunds.com, said of the interest-free loans. “It’s a strong month, and we’ve seen it pick up in the second half.”