DETROIT (AP) — U.S. auto sales likely rose in September as Japanese car inventories returned to pre-earthquake levels and carmakers offered more deals. Still, annual sales are expected to fall short of earlier expectations.Automakers release U.S. sales figures for September on Monday.
Analysts expected sales to increase around 10% from last September to more than 1 million cars and trucks. The sales pace is expected to be the strongest since before Japan’s earthquake in March. That’s partly because supplies of cars at Toyota and Honda dealerships have nearly returned to normal.
The labour Day holiday likely gave sales a boost. So did Hurricane Irene, which may have pushed some sales from August into September. Auto pricing site TrueCar.com predicts sales at General Motors, Chrysler and Hyundai will rise 20% or more from last September. Toyota and Honda will still be down, but not by as much as they were earlier this summer when supply disruptions left shortages of some popular car models.
Automakers also probably piled on cash-back deals and other incentives as their inventories improved. Edmunds.com estimates that Honda’s incentives were up 15% compared with August. Auto incentives were up around 4 per cent industrywide to $2,716 per vehicle, TrueCar says.
But stock market volatility, low job growth and other factors continue to hurt buyers’ confidence. Edmunds recently lowered its full-year sales forecast to 12.6 million cars and trucks from 12.9 million.
Analysts also don’t expect sweeter deals this fall, saying automakers are purposefully limiting production so they won’t have to resort to discounts. The average car is now sitting on a dealer lot for 46 days, far less time than the typical average of 60 days. That’s the lowest average since Edmunds began tracking that data in 2002.
Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds’ senior director of industry analysis, says it’s more likely that automakers will try to generate interest with splashy holiday ads starting in November.
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