October 2, 2018 / 2:23 PM / 2 months ago

Hurricanes batter September U.S. new car sales

DETROIT, Oct 2 (Reuters) - Major automakers on Tuesday posted a hefty drop in U.S. new vehicle sales for September, caused in part by a drop in sales in areas hit by Florence and a tough comparison to the previous September when consumers rushed to replace vehicles damaged by Hurricane Harvey.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCA) bucked the trend for the month, reporting a 15-percent jump in U.S. sales led by increases in sales of its lucrative Jeeps - especially its Cherokee and Compass models - and Ram pickup trucks.

Hurricane Florence flooded large parts of North Carolina and South Carolina last month, with residents dealing with the deluge instead of shopping for new cars.

Sales in September 2017 were boosted by major replacement demand for water-damaged vehicles following Hurricane Harvey, which had flooded parts of southeastern Texas in August that year.

The seasonally-adjusted annualized rate of sales for September hit 18.1 million units in September 2017 - the highest sales pace since 2005.

Ford Motor Co on Tuesday reported an 11.2 percent drop in sales, with declines in every major category. Sales of sedans were down nearly 26 percent, in line with an ongoing trend where U.S. consumers have been abandoning passenger cars for larger pickup trucks and SUVs.

But the No. 2 U.S. automaker also reported a nearly 9-percent decline for sales of its best-selling, and highly-profitable, F-Series pickup trucks and a 2.7-percent drop in sales of SUVs.

In a conference call with analysts and reporters, Ford's U.S. sales chief Mark LaNeve referred to September as a "tale of two hurricanes."

"Hurricane Florence was a big factor this month," LaNeve said, adding that recovery efforts after the storm were "moving quickly."

Toyota Motor Corp said that its U.S. new-vehicle sales fell 10.4 percent in September. Sedan sales at the Japanese automaker were off nearly 28 percent. That included a 17-percent decline for the its flagship Camry, which was completely redesigned for this year with the aim of taking greater market share in the shrinking passenger car market.

Toyota's SUV and pickup truck sales were down 0.3 percent for the month.

Nissan Motor Co Ltd reported a 12.2 percent drop in sales for September, with a 35.7 percent decline in passenger car sales more than offsetting a 6.6 percent rise in pickup truck and SUV sales.

Sales of Nissan's best-selling vehicle, the Rogue crossover, fell 10.6 percent in September.

In early trading, Ford's shares were down 1 percent at $9.22, while FCA was down 9 cents at $17.90.

Reporting By Nick Carey Editing by Nick Zieminski

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