Ford Sales Rise, GM Sales Fall as Auto Industry Sales Decline 5%

DETROIT ( TheStreet) -- U.S. auto sales lost about 5% in September due to a calendar variation, but Ford ( F) had a 6% gain.

Ford said sales in September rose 5.8% to 185,146 units, while GM ( GM) sales fell 11% to 187,195. Chrysler said sales rose 1% to 143,017 units.

Ford economist Erich Merkle said industry sales fell an estimated 5%. Industry experts were expecting reduced sales in September because the month had two fewer selling days as Labor Day weekend fell in August rather than September. The year-over-year decline would be the first since May 2011. Ford continues to estimate full-year industry sales at 15.5 million to 16 million units.

At GM, retail sales fell 6%. Buick sales gained 6.5% and Cadillac sales gained 9.9%, but Chevrolet sales fell 14.7% and Cruze sales fell 51% to 12,730.

"We held our own when it comes to retail market share this month thanks to strong new products, including the Chevrolet Impala, Buick Encore, GMC Sierra and the Cadillac ATS and XTS," said Kurt McNeil, vice president, U.S. sales operations, in a prepared statement. "We expect a strong finish to the year and more growth in 2014 thanks to new products and a healthier economy."

At Ford, Fusion sales rose 62% to 19,972 while Fiesta sales rose 29% to 5,043, the best September ever, and F-Series sales rose 10% to 60,456. Escape sales fell 2.3% to 22,607.

"We're particularly encouraged by the strength of the Fusion and Fiesta, especially in coastal markets," said Ken Czubay, vice president for U.S. marketing, sales and service, in a prepared statement. "The F-Series also keeps delivering, with our fifth-straight month surpassing the 60,000-vehicle mark and continuing as America's best-selling vehicle."

The Chrysler, Dodge and Ram Truck brands each posted single digit year-over-year sales gains in September compared with the same month a year ago, but Jeep sales fell 5% reflecting discontinuation of the Liberty and Wrangler's 1% decline to 11,984. Grand Cherokee sales rose 19% to 14,906.

"Even though industry sales dipped during September, Chrysler Group still managed to eke out a slight sales increase for the month," said Reid Bigland, head of Chrysler's U.S. sales, in a prepared statement. "Our dealers had two less selling days in September compared with a year ago, but they still outperformed the industry and extended our sales streak to 42-consecutive months of year-over-year sales gains." analyst Bill Visnic said, "Chrysler's ability to generate a small sales increase in September despite the industry's substantial pull-ahead sales in August indicates there are several genuine areas of strength in Chrysler's product range."

In particular, "the company's Ram pickup trucks continue to grow despite the launch of new-generation pickups from General Motors and ongoing pressure in the segment from Ford and Toyota ( TM)," Visnic said. He added the arrival of the 2014 Grand Cherokee sales should bolster Chrysler's current quarter sales.

The estimated average transaction price for light vehicles in the United States was $31,604 in September 2013, up $32 or 0.1% from last month and down $37 or 0.1% from the same month a year earlier, according to Kelley Blue Book.

"Transaction prices remained fairly flat compared to last month as manufacturers were trying to empty dealership lots from 2013 model-year inventory as 2014 models were arriving in showrooms," said Kelley Blue Book analyst Karl Brauer, in a prepared statement.

Volkswagen said September sales fell 2.6% to 31,920.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

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