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  • Associated Press U.S. car sales were up 6.1 percent in September, due in large part to the replacement of vehicles destroyed in hurricanes Harvey and Irma. General Motors, which has a truck assembly plant in Allen County, saw an 11.9 percent increase.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017 1:00 am

Hurricanes help boost auto sales

Replacement buys drive numbers up 6.1% in September

TOM KRISHER | Associated Press

DETROIT – The auto industry posted its first monthly sales gain of the year in September, led by strong truck and SUV sales and the replacement of cars destroyed by Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

U.S. sales rose 6.1 percent to just over 1.5 million vehicles, according to Autodata Corp., as Toyota, Honda, Ford, General Motors, Nissan and Volkswagen all posted strong numbers. Of major automakers, only Fiat Chrysler and Hyundai reported sales declines.

Industry analysts predicted that positive sales would continue through the end of the year fueled by customers whose cars were destroyed by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. But sales aren't expected to be strong enough to match last year's record of more than 17.5 million.

Christopher Hopson, manager of light-vehicle forecasting for IHS Markit, said September had a perfect mix of hurricane replacement demand, high incentives, rising fleet sales and strong sales of outgoing 2017 models.

“While this strong level of demand isn't expected to be sustained throughout the fourth quarter, these short-term supports are not likely to drop off in a meaningful way, setting the stage for strong (fourth quarter) results,” Hopson said in a statement.

GM, which has an Allen County truck assembly plant, reported Tuesday that sales rose 11.9 percent from a year ago, while Ford sales rose 8.7 percent. Toyota posted a 14.9 percent increase, while Nissan sales were up 9.5 percent and Honda sales rose 6.8 percent. Volkswagen said its sales rose 33.2 percent over numbers that were depressed a year ago by its diesel emissions cheating scandal.

Fiat Chrysler sales fell 10 percent and Hyundai, which relies on cars for much of its results rather than SUVs and trucks, saw sales fall 14.4 percent. Both blamed reductions in sales to big fleet buyers such as rental car companies.

Industry analysts had predicted a small sales rise for the month, with the Edmunds.com auto site expecting a 0.4 percent increase. But automakers, aided by hurricane sales, powered past the forecasts.