Toyota Motor Corp. and General Motors Co. posted the biggest sales gains as the largest automakers in the U.S. beat analyst estimates, helped by consumers in Texas starting to replace vehicles damaged by Hurricane Harvey.
Deliveries climbed 15% for Toyota and 12% for GM in September. Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV also exceeded projections, and GM forecast the industry selling rate would be the best this year.
After Hurricane Harvey hurt sales in August, vehicle demand was expected to pick up starting last month as drivers returned to the market to replace lost or damaged rides. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News on average had predicted the industry’s annualized selling rate, adjusted for seasonal trends, may have been 17.4 million vehicles in September, down from 17.7 million a year earlier but the fastest pace since February.
“With September likely already seeing some benefit from replacement sales, we expect this boost to continue for the rest of the year given Houston is the fourth-largest auto market in the U.S.,” Emmanuel Rosner of Guggenheim Partners wrote in a note to clients. “We expect to see particular strength in truck sales due to typical Houston-area sales mix and need for infrastructure re-building.”
GM said in an emailed statement the industry sales rate may have been 18.1 million for September.
Researcher IHS Markit estimates consumers will purchase about 500,000 new vehicles to replace what Harvey destroyed. Further replacement buying from Hurricanes Irma and Maria will begin to show up later this fall, with demand from all three storms lasting for about 18 months.
“When you have hundreds of thousands of people affected by an event of this magnitude,” said Edmunds analyst Jessica Caldwell, “not everyone will hit the market at once.”
Fiat Chrysler, which had been projected to post the biggest decline for the month among major automakers, said sales of the Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV surged 20%. Ford increased deliveries to rental car companies and other fleet customers by 25% in September.
Toyota and GM were expected to post some of the largest gains, according to Bloomberg’s survey of analysts.
By Jamie Butters, with assistance from Keith Naughton, David Welch and John Lippert