August U.S. auto sales: Toyota, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Subaru slip as chip woes spread

The severe microchip shortage and other supply-chain constraints that have plagued automakers for months have now ensnarled Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and Kia, while dealing another ugly blow to Ford Motor Co.

Overall, U.S. light-vehicle sales tumbled 17 percent last month, Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas said Thursday. Sales were expected to fall 4 to 18 percent in August, based on estimates from Cox Automotive, TrueCar, J.D. Power and LMC Automotive.

While record low inventory levels undermined August sales, Jonas said the industry may also be facing a strike by buyers, citing ‘nosebleed’ pricing above MSRP. Because of record low stockpiles, many new-vehicle sales are subject to market adjustments by dealers, driving prices higher. (See chart below.)

“Maybe the consumer has decided to ‘wait it out’ until prices fall?,” Jonas wondered in a new report.

The seasonally adjusted, annualized rate of sales for August dropped to 13.09 million, Motor Intelligence said, at the low end of the range of forecasts — 13.1 million to 14.4 million. That is the weakest SAAR reading of the year and the lowest since June 2020’s 13.23 million rate, early in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The SAAR has also declined steadily since hitting a 2021 peak of 18.5 million in April.

August U.S. light-vehicle deliveries dropped 2 percent at Toyota Motor Corp., with volume down 2.4 percent at the Toyota division but edging up 0.5 percent at Lexus.

Some of the Toyota brand’s biggest sellers posted notable declines, with Highlander volume off 11 percent and RAV4 deliveries down 24 percent. Camry deliveries slipped 3.1 percent and Tacoma dropped 4.5 percent.

Toyota, which plans more production cuts in coming months, said it ended August with 132,934 cars and light trucks, or an 18-day supply. Toyota division stockpiles totaled 106,985 at month-end, or a 17-day supply, while Lexus had a 24-day supply, or 25,949 light vehicles. Actual dealer stock is much lower because of inventory at ports or in transit, Toyota said.

Ford Motor Co.’s August sales tumbled 33 percent, with volume dropping 33 percent at the Ford division and 44 percent at Lincoln. Ford’s biggest sellers all posted double-digit declines in volume: F-series, down 23 percent; Ranger; off 68 percent; Explorer, down 57 percent; Escape, off 33 percent; and Transit, down 36 percent. 

The company said August inventory rose 34 percent compared to July and that it has 214,500 light vehicles in gross stock.

Ford, signaling demand remains strong as production continues to recover, said it received 41,000 new retail orders last month, a four-fold increase over August 2020. The company has also offered up to $1,000 in bonuses to shoppers who order a vehicle to be delivered at a later date.

Volume was off 16 percent at Honda Motor Co., with sales down 18 percent at the Honda division but up 4.7 percent at Acura. It was the company’s first decline since sales dropped 11 percent in February. CR-V deliveries fell 19 percent and Accord volume skidded 24 percent last month.

After a stretch of monthly record sales, August deliveries fell 3.7 percent at Hyundai and 5.3 percent at Kia, the companies said Wednesday.

Sales of some of the two companies’ most popular light trucks — the Hyundai Palisade, Tucson and Santa Fe, as well as the Kia Telluride, Seltos and Sorento — dropped last month.

Kia said it sold 74 percent of available inventory last month and Hyundai ended August with 39,357 new vehicles in U.S. stock, a decline of 15 percent from 46,113 in July.