UPDATE 1-Ford, Chrysler increase U.S. sales in September
DETROIT, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Chrysler Group LLC Ford Motor Co beat analysts' expectations on Tuesday by posting their best September U.S. sales increases in six and seven years, respectively.
Ford's sales rose 5.8 percent to 185,146. Chrysler, an affiliate of Italy's Fiat SpA, said its sales were up 1 percent at 143,017.
Analysts surveyed by Reuters had expected September sales would decline at both companies.
Volkswagen AG's U.S. subsidiary said VW brand sales in September fell 12.2 percent to 31,920.
Hyundai Motor Co said U.S. sales were down 8 percent at 55,102.
Other major automakers will report September sales later on Tuesday.
The U.S. auto industry's sizzling summer sales pace is expected to have stalled last month, for the first year-on-year sales decline in more than two years. There were two fewer shopping days in September, compared with the previous year, and part of the Labor Day shopping weekend fell in August.
Chrysler bucked that trend, with sales of its Dodge, Chrysler and Ram brands all reporting modest increases in September.
Jeep sales fell 5 percent as Chrysler struggled to get the all-new 2014 Cherokee to dealers. Fiat brand sales plunged 24 percent, the first year-to-year decline in 18 months.
Sales of Ford brand vehicles rose 6.3 percent, while Lincoln sales fell 5.1 percent.
Ford said it posted the best September sales since 2006. Chrysler's September sales were its best since 2007.
Analysts who closely watch the auto industry predict September's annualized sales rate will be in the range of 15.2 million to 15.7 million. The lower end of that range would fall short of summer's torrid pace, including a 16 million rate in August that marked the strongest performance in nearly six years.
Despite September's expected sales decline of 2 percent to 5 percent, analysts expect the industry's momentum - it has largely outperformed the broader economy - to continue in the fourth quarter and into 2014 as the factors driving demand remain in place.
"Consumer confidence is relatively high, unemployment ticked down to 7.3 percent in August, and we continue to see increases in home prices and construction activity," Jefferies analyst Elaine Kwei said in a research note.
Barclays analyst Brian Johnson called the expected September sales decline "nothing more than noise."
Average transaction prices for new cars and trucks continued to rise, hitting a record $31,854 in September, according to researcher TrueCar. Prices rose $602 from August as automakers sent more 2014 models to dealers and reduced incentives on leftover 2013 models, TrueCar said.
Chrysler projected the industry's annualized rate in September at 15.7 million, including about 300,000 heavy trucks.