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US car sales get boost from hurricane recovery

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

CHICAGO, United States (AFP) — The US auto industry recieved a boost in September by shoppers replacing vehicles destroyed in major hurricanes, and was poised yesterday to show the first reversal this year of sales declines.

The recovery in Texas and Florida from hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which destroyed hundreds of thousands of vehicles, was expected to help the industry in September, October, and even in November.

The growth would reverse steady declines every month this year following record-setting sales in 2016 capping a seven-year growth streak.

The major North American players reported good news, with Toyota, GM and Ford all recording significant sales growth. FCA US, the American subsidiary of Fiat Chrysler, struggled, but showed improvement in its retail sales.

The industry could notch a one-per cent boost in September for 1.44 million vehicles sold, according to a forecast by auto research firm Kelly Blue Book.

“While major hurricanes devastated parts of Texas and Florida in the past month, this is driving replacement demand for those drivers with vehicles destroyed,” Kelly Blue Book analyst Tim Fleming forecasted.

“This demand has already started in some areas, but will continue into October and potentially November, as vehicle insurance payouts are received.”



GM, the biggest US car- maker, reported an 11.9-per cent sales jump compared to September 2016 — with a 17-per cent rise in sales of its Chevrolet models driven by its newest crossovers.

Retail sales to customers in showrooms made up the bulk of the sales growth, the company said.

“Retail sales should remain strong for the foreseeable future,” the company's economist Mustafa Mohatarem said in a statement.

Toyota reported sales growth of 14.9 per cent — with a skyrocketing 43.2- per cent jump in SUV demand.

Ford sold 21.4 per cent more of its popular F-Series pickup trucks, compared to the year-ago period, helping lift the company's overall sales 8.7 per cent.

“We're pleased to say recovery in Houston and Florida is moving quickly, with all of our dealers in the area now back up,” Ford US sales chief Mark LaNeve said.

FCA US's retail sales to individual buyers were up only 0.3 per cent, and were eclipsed by a planned drawdown of fleet sales to businesses and government agencies.

The company experienced a 10- per cent decline in September, but reported higher demand for its popular Jeep models, including a 20 -per cent sales increase for the Grand Cherokee SUV.