Automakers expect little impact from the federal government shutdown, and they predict a fourth-quarter rebound after a rare sales decline in September.
Auto sales dropped 4 percent from a year ago to just more than 1.1 million, mainly because of a calendar quirk that pulled Labor Day weekend transactions into August's numbers. The drop ended a 27- month streak of gains for the industry.
General Motors and Honda reported double-digit declines for last month. Hyundai, Nissan and Toyota posted smaller decreases. Only Ford and Chrysler reported gains among the bigger automakers.
GM's 11 percent drop was its first since July of last year. At Honda, sales dropped 10 percent.
Hyundai posted an 8 percent decline, while Nissan reported a sales drop of nearly 6 percent.
Toyota's sales fell 4 percent. Jim Lentz, Toyota's North American CEO, said people have grown used to dysfunction in Washington. The shutdown will affect sales only if it causes credit markets to tighten, Lentz said. That will be a problem, he said, because low interest rates and abundant credit have helped fuel the auto sales recovery.
Ford bucked the industry trend with a 6 percent sales increase, while Chrysler's sales rose 1 percent.
"As long as the underlying economic factors are supporting the business, which we believe they will through the end of this year and into 2014, we'll get through this turbulence," said Ken Czubay, Ford's U.S. sales manager.
There was concern among executives and analysts that a long shutdown - and a looming confrontation over raising the government's debt ceiling - could eventually cause sales to fall. Kurt McNeil, GM's U.S. sales chief, said anything over two weeks could cut into consumer confidence.
"Consumers don't like to make big-ticket item purchases when there's a lot of uncertainty in the economy," said Jesse Toprak, senior analyst for the TrueCar.com auto pricing site.
(c) 2013 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.
Original headline: Auto sales falter in September
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