Wall Street Journal Reveals September Update for U.S. Car Market

Once again, the Wall Street Journal has come out with an updated review of U.S. auto sales this month. The new October report shows the numbers for September and provides more information on what brands and vehicles are capturing market share in the current American new and used car environment.

One aspect of the Wall Street Journal report that’s always interesting is the monthly and annual breakdown of market share between the “big five” top companies selling vehicles in the U.S. market. This report contrast sales between General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, as well as Japanese auto makers Toyota and Honda. One interesting change for September is that the Wall Street Journal chart reveals continual narrowing of the sales gap between General Motors, which holds a declining ten year advantage in overall market share, over Ford, its closest competitor. The newest chart shows a decrease of around 1% to 2% in the General Motors lead over Ford, which is around 5% currently.

Another significant point revealed by the latest report is confirmation that sales of Chrysler LLC, now the newly formed Chrysler/Fiat partnership, have eclipsed sales of the Toyota company. In August these two were running neck and neck. The September chart numbers show a clear lead on the part of Chrysler as Toyota numbers continue to decline slightly from a modest peak in July. It’s hard to say whether lackluster Toyota numbers are due to the massive recalls last year, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, or any of a range of other factors, and opinions differ widely on whether Toyota prices will spike back up in the future.

The Wall Street Journal report also provides some data on which specific vehicle models are selling well this year. For example, with Ford sales strong overall, September’s numbers show today’s Ford Escape selling over 30% above year-to-date numbers from last year. Other big winners the Volkswagen Jetta with a 57% increase, and the Chevrolet Equinox and the Hyundai Elantra, each with a  46% gain.

So what does market share information have to do with car buying? For one thing, looking at what vehicles are hot in a particular month can help car buyers to finesse their overall buying strategy. Those who are experienced in new or used model car negotiations with local dealerships understand that this process is often a simple battle of wills. You put in a number, and the dealer’s rep counters with a much higher “best deal” number, but that’s not where it has to end. A lot of haggling goes on at the average car lot when buyers want to get fair prices for their next purchase. Experts counsel consumers to be prepared to walk away from a high-pressure deal, and to do some detailed comparison shopping, in order to get the best price. Where model market share comes in is that buyers who understand the current market climate for their desired vehicle can know when to demand a lower transaction price, and when to move onto another model that provides more of a bargain opportunity. It’s all part of being informed and knowing, in the words of the old song, “when to hold’em and when to fold’em.” In order to avoid getting stuck paying more than you have to for new or used car financing, or even for an upfront cash purchase, read up on the market and other particulars before heading to the lot.