Ford pared losses on Tuesday, Sept. 4, after posting better-than-expected sales figures for August even though U.S. auto sales could be reaching a plateau.
Sales of sport utility vehicles, or SUVs, rose 20.1% year over year, while car sales fell 21.3%.
Truck sales, the Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker's most dominant segment, gained 5.7% to 102,173. The F-Series pickup trucks reached 16 straight months of gains in August.
The two best-selling vehicles, however, were the Ford Expedition, which saw sales climb 94.6%, and the Lincoln Navigator, with sales up 101.6% in August.
"I certainly wouldn't say it's impossible that sales could go higher," Bryan Bezold, a senior Americas economist at Ford, said during a conference call with analysts and members of the media. "But the most likely case is the one we've outlined for several years now, which is our frame of reference here is that we have a several-year period coming out of the crisis when the rate of growth of auto sales exceeded the rate of growth of GDP. And that period is largely behind us because we think the replacement demand that we felt during the crisis has been satiated. So, I would expect it would be at this plateau."
Shares of Ford rose 0.2% to $9.50, erasing losses of about 1%, at 11:00 a.m. New York time.
Toyota Motor Corp. (TM - Get Report) stock also fell 1.4% to $122.34 after the company reported a 2% drop in U.S. auto sales. Toyota said it sold 223,055 vehicles in August, compared with 227,625 during the same month last year.
General Motors Co. (GM - Get Report) , meanwhile, is scheduled to release quarterly sales results on Oct. 3. The Detroit-based automaker announced in April that it would switch from monthly sales reports to quarterly sales reports as "thirty days is not enough time to separate real sales trends from short-term fluctuations in a very dynamic, highly competitive market." March was GM's last monthly sales report.
"Reporting sales quarterly better aligns with our business, and the quality of information will make it easier to see how the business is performing," Kurt McNeil, U.S. vice president of sales operations at GM, said in an April statement.
Even though it didn't report monthly sales figures, GM stock slid 0.7% to $35.79.
New-vehicle retail sales in August are expected to reach 1.28 million units, a 1.3% increase from August 2017, according to automotive analysts J.D. Power and LMC Automotive. Total vehicle sales were estimated at almost 1.5 million, 1.2% higher than a year earlier.
The seasonally adjusted annual rate for August is expected at 16.8 million units, flat with July 2018 and higher than 16.5 million sales in August 2017.
"Hurricane Harvey depressed August sales by 2% when it hit last year, which is likely why we're seeing a year-over-year lift in sales," Jeremy Acevedo, Edmunds' manager of industry analysis, said last Wednesday. "Despite this slight boost, August sales fall in line with the slower overall sales pace we expect to see through the second half of the year."
"There are a lot of things working against the automotive market right now: Incentive spending is maxed out, interest rates are rising, and vehicle prices are reaching record highs," said Acevedo. "Add to that the uncertainty that comes with renegotiating NAFTA and tariff talks and it amounts to what could be a challenging back half of the year for automakers."
Ford's Bezold noted the August survey of consumers by the University of Michigan revealed the share of respondents who thought that it is a good time to buy a car fell to 59%, the lowest level since 2013. And while overall economic data, including The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index and the Consumer Price Index, suggests continued economic growth in the second half of the year, there are "signs of increasing price pressures."
-- This story has been updated to include commentary from Ford's conference call.