GM said Monday it saw sales decline 0.6 percent to 249,795 cars and light trucks, beating analysts' estimates of a 1.6 percent drop. General Motors' and Honda's sales were flat.
Total U.S. industry sales are heading for about a 1.5% decline in September compared with the same month a year ago even though automakers tried to keep the sales momentum going with higher incentives.
Overall sales for Ford were down 8 percent year-on-year at 204,447 vehicles for the month. A few automakers - including Toyota and Nissan - reported a sales increase.
"Much of the automotive industry's focus recently has been on rising incentives and very little sales growth, however average transaction prices continue to rise across the industry, climbing almost 3% in September 2016 from the previous year", said Tim Fleming, analyst for Kelley Blue Book.
But after six straight years of growth, demand is clearly slowing.
Nissan Motor, the first to report on Monday, said its September U.S. sales were 127,797 vehicles, up 5 percent.
Industrywide spending for discounts rose US$430 per vehicle from a year ago, Mark LaNeve, Ford's vice president of USA marketing, sales and service, said on a conference call after the company reported sales. Around 500,000 off-lease vehicles are returning to the used auto market this year and next year, and many consumers will choose them instead of new vehicles, says Alec Gutierrez, a senior market analyst with Kelley Blue Book.
Fiat Chrysler's Ram 1500 pickup truck showed a sales increase of 29 percent. Ford's auto sales fell 21 percent, while its top-selling F-Series pickups declined by 2.6 percent and SUV sales dropped 3.4 percent.
Fiat Chrysler spokesman Ralph Kisiel, responding by email to a Reuters query about rivals' claims that Ram pickup trucks were highly discounted, said the company has offered "good deals" on 2016 model trucks to make way for the new 2017 models. "Everybody's trying to protect their share and, in spots, grow it". Chevrolet Silverado pickup sales fell 16 percent, while GMC Yukon sales rose 34 percent.
The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of sales is forecast by Edmunds to come in at around 17.5 million in September, a 6.1% decrease from August and a 1.7% decrease from September 2015. In September, the average transaction price for a new vehicle or truck was $34,372 - a 2.5% increase compared with last September, according to Kelley Blue Book.
- Toyota Motor Co.'s sales rose 1.5 percent to 197,260.
- Subaru brand sales rose 4 percent to 54,918, led by a 12 percent gain for the Subaru Outback small SUV. Ford's March sales also fell 8%. But SUV and truck sales were up 13 percent.
The company said its dealers delivered 25,466 vehicles during the month, up from 24,960 a year earlier, its strongest September performance since 2008. The CR-V, the top-selling SUV in the US, continued rolling along with a 6.5 percent increase for September.