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Key auto markets record mixed sales in September

New vehicle sales in the U.S. and China decreased year over year in September, while Europe and Japan posted gains, according to an S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis.

US new vehicle sales drop YOY in September

The overall nonseasonally adjusted U.S. vehicle sales dropped 11.3% to 1.27 million units from 1.43 million units a year ago, according to data released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Passenger car sales in the U.S. for the period declined 20.6% to 341,448 units from 429,827 units in the year-ago period. Sales of trucks, minivans and SUVs for the period totaled 928,588 units, down 7.4% from 1 million units in September 2018.

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Japanese carmaker Toyota Motor Corp. sold 169,656 units in September, down 16.5% year over year on a volume basis.

Honda Motor Co. Ltd. posted a 14.1% decrease in U.S. sales for September at 113,925 units. At Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., sales declined 17.6% year over year to 101,244 units.

General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV no longer report monthly sales figures.

Car shopping experts at Edmunds had predicted a decline in new vehicle sales in September due to two fewer selling days and an early Labor Day holiday.

"September auto sales look a little bleak on paper, but it's just a matter of a tough year-over-year comparison," Jeremy Acevedo, senior manager of industry analysis at Edmunds, said in a Sept. 25 research statement.

Acevedo said pressures such as high prices and rising interest rates eased during the third quarter just "enough to get consumers back in a buying mood."

"If this momentum continues, we expect a solid finish to the year," Acevedo added.

Average interest rates for new vehicles declined to 5.7% in September, the lowest level of 2019 so far, experts at Edmunds said in an Oct. 1 statement. In contrast, the average interest rate for August was 5.8%.

"Automakers are in full sell-down mode, which means that car shoppers got to take advantage of some decent promotional offers in September," said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds' executive director of industry analysis.

Edmunds' experts believe the decline in average interest rates in recent months is driven by incentives and does not signal a return to post-recession market conditions.

"Shoppers who are thinking about buying a new car may want to take advantage of the model-year sell-down over the next couple of months before the majority of these incentives dry up," Caldwell said.

European car sales rise YOY in September

Car sales across Europe rose 14.4% in September after a significant drop in August, data from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, or ACEA, shows.

New passenger car registrations, or sales, totaled 1.29 million vehicles in September, up from 1.12 million in the year-ago period, according to ACEA data for the European Union and the European Free Trade Association, or EFTA, countries of Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

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All five major European markets registered sales growth in September.

Germany recorded a 22.2% year-over-year increase in registrations. The U.K. saw an increase of 1.3% in sales, while registrations in Italy rose 13.4%.

Among the EFTA countries, Iceland posted a 23.5% drop in auto sales, while registrations rose 18.7% in Switzerland.

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Major automakers also posted sales growth for September for the EU and the EFTA region.

Volkswagen AG's registrations rose 46.8% in September to 258,995 units. Sales of the company's Porsche luxury brand increased by 231.3%, while sales at the Volkswagen brand jumped 58.2%.

France's Renault SA posted a year-over-year sales increase of 27.8% to 123,069 units as sales of the company's Renault brand rose 30.3%.

French carmaker PSA Group registered a 4.3% increase in sales to 208,977 units, as sales of its Peugeot SA brand increased 1.5% year over year.

Daimler AG's registrations climbed 6.9% to 94,055 units in September.

Japan auto sales rise, China reports a drop

New vehicle sales in Japan grew 13.56% year over year in September as all major Japanese carmakers reported an increase in sales for the period.

Sales reached 458,856 units in September, up from 404,057 units from the same period in 2018, according to data from the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.

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Toyota sold 143,056 units during the month, up from 115,125 units sold in the year-ago period. Honda sold 68,010 vehicles during the period, more than the 65,285 vehicles it sold in September 2018.

In China, auto sales fell 5.2% in September from a year earlier to 2.3 million units, according to data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

Passenger car sales in China slid 6.3% to 1.93 million units in September.

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