Sales of domestically built new cars and trucks rose 6% in September, auto makers said Tuesday, but the gains might have been stronger without a car production shortfall at General Motors Corp.
For the last 10 days of the month, sales were up 4.5% from a similar period last year, selling at an annual pace of 11.3 million.
"I think it's more of the same--a solid recovery but certainly not blistering," said Wertheim Schroder & Co. analyst John Casesa.
GM has blamed a combination of faulty parts from suppliers, new technology for fitting air bags and a changeover to air-conditioning coolant that doesn't deplete the ozone layer for a third-quarter production shortfall of 70,000 cars and trucks compared to original estimates.
On a percentage basis, imported cars and trucks made greater strides in September than the U.S. Big Three: GM, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Corp. Japanese makers' sales in the month were up 12.1%, compared to a 4% gain for the Big Three.
In the Sept. 21-30 period, Japanese companies with U.S. plants reported a 15.3% rise in sales over last year. Big Three sales were up 2.5%.
The sales report also includes final figures for the 1993 model year.
The Ford F-Series pickup trucks were the best-selling vehicles in the year, which ended Sept. 30, a position the truck has held for the last 11 calendar years. Ford sold 502,188 of the trucks, topping Chevrolet's C-K pickups, which finished the model year at 476,376.
Ford also had the best-selling car, with the Taurus mid-size sedan racking up 399,573 sales, comfortably ahead of the Honda Accord at 343,017. Taurus and Accord finished third and fourth among total vehicles. The Ford Ranger compact pickup rounded out the top five, with 311,406 sales.
GM said its late-September sales were up 1.6%. Car sales were off 7.4%, while light-truck sales--pickups, minivans and sport utility vehicles--were up 16.2%. For the month, GM's combined car and truck sales were off 4%.
"Although we experienced one of the best end-of-model-year cleanups in GM history, September sales were impacted by low availability of some key models, a situation that is being corrected," said J. Michael Losh, GM sales and marketing vice president.
GM's share of the U.S. market finished the month at 29.8%, among the lowest monthly figures in its history, not including strikes. For the first nine months, GM's combined share was 33.1%, 1.2% below its final market share for 1992.
"I think as far as GM's low market share was concerned, it was a conspiracy between a lack of supply and a lack of demand," said S.G. Warburg & Co. analyst David Healy.
Ford's market share for the month was 25.8%, above its nine-month share of 25.2%.
Ford's late-September car sales were up just 0.1%, while its light-truck sales rose 9.6%, for an overall gain of 4.1%. For the month, Ford's combined car and truck sales were up 9.7%.
Chrysler said its car sales for the month were up 20.6% and its light-truck sales were up 7.9%, for an overall gain of 13.3%. Chrysler does not report its 10-day sales.
"This is a terrific finish to a strong model year," said Theodor Cunningham, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Chrysler.
Chrysler's market share for the month was 14.3%, trailing its year-to-date share of 14.7%.