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Auto sales fall as second-half slowdown takes root

Time2018-10-03     Reserved

Major auto makers, with the exception of Fiat Chrysler, posted lower U.S. sales last month behind the ongoing slump in the car market and softer retail demand, even amid elevated incentive levels, signaling an anticipated second-half slowdown continued in September.

A year ago, industry sales also were boosted by vehicle-replacement demand following Hurricane Harvey.With every auto maker except for Audi reporting, U.S. light-vehicle deliveries last month fell 5.6 percent, slightly better than analysts' forecast for a 7 percent decline compared to September 2017, when sales spiked as consumers replaced vehicles destroyed by Harvey.Yet by another measure, the September numbers will look stronger. The seasonally adjusted, annualized rate of sales was expected to rise above 17 million for the seventh time this year after two months below that level. The forecast is based on nine analysts polled by Bloomberg News.

A final SAAR won't be calculated until Audi reports September results, which are expected later Tuesday or early Wednesday.The September 2017 SAAR was 18.2 million, the strongest month of the year.

U.S. sales rose 1.3 percent through August after a better-than-expected first half, driven in part by a boost from U.S. tax reform. The SAAR declines in July and August were taken as a sign that a second-half slowdown predicted by analysts is unfolding.

"The U.S. economy and auto industry remain strong," said General Motors Chief Economist Elaine Buckberg. "A new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement will reduce uncertainty for the auto industry and all three countries. We believe 2018 will be the fourth year in a row with total industry sales above 17 million units."

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