Auto sales fall 2% as Hurricane Harvey keeps shoppers out of dealerships

Auto sales fall 2% as Hurricane Harvey keeps shoppers out of dealerships

Longer-term, storm could improve sales as victims replace vehicles.

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September 5, 2017
By Robert Schoenberger
Cars/Light trucks Economy Manufacturing Material Handling

Chevrolet Impala sales jumped 66% in August as General Motors returned to the car-rental sales market. 

Cleveland, Ohio – Automakers blamed Hurricane Harvey for the lowest seasonally adjust annual rate (SAAR) of sales since 2014. The massive storm devastated the country’s fourth largest city and kept shoppers away from dealerships throughout the Gulf Coast.

Overall sales fell about 2%, a fairly minimal decline compared to falling SAAR figures from earlier in the year, indicating that without the storm damage, sales might have been flat or even up.

General Motors sales climbed 7.5%, mainly because of an increase in rental car fleet sales. All major automakers have been pulling back on fleet sales this year, so increased shipments of Chevy Impala and Malibu sedans had a big impact on total sales numbers.

At Ford, F-Series pickup sales jumped 15%, but declines for cars and vans depressed overall sales. Total company sales were down about 2%. Rental car sales represented only 2.1% of Ford sales. Year-to-date, that figure is about 12%.

There was little pattern to August’s numbers – Toyota was up, Honda was down. Fiat Chrysler sales were down sharply, as were Nissan’s. Hyundai’s sales were down 25%, but its Kia subsidiary was down less than 2%.

Several automakers have been marshalling resources to assist in Texas, sending cash and vehicles to aid groups. General Motors workers near Dallas filled several semi-truckloads of clothes and supplies.

Longer term, the storm could increase 2017’s sales as storm victims replace flooded vehicles.

About the author: Robert Schoenberger is the editor of Today's Motor Vehicles and a contributor to Today's Medical Developments and Aerospace Manufacturing and Design. He has written about the automotive industry for more than 17 years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi. rschoenberger@gie.net