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U.S. August auto sales to rise 12 percent: J.D. Power & LMC

The Chevrolet logo and the U.S. flag are seen in Gaithersburg, Maryland May 1, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
The Chevrolet logo and the U.S. flag are seen in Gaithersburg, Maryland May 1, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

By Bernie Woodall

(Reuters) - U.S. auto sales in August are on pace to show a 12 percent rise from last year, market analysts J.D. Power & Associates and LMC Automotive said on Thursday.

Total new vehicle sales should be nearly 1.5 million in August, a 12 percent increase from 2012, which translates to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 16 million, J.D. Power and LMC said in a joint statement.

The August annualized monthly sales rate, if realized, would be the highest since November 2007, and if the actual number of vehicles sold reaches nearly 1.5 million, it would be the best sales month since May 2007, they said.

"This strong selling environment is occurring when consumers are spending more on new vehicles than any month on record, which is a further indication of the underlying strength of the sector," said John Humphrey of the automotive practice at J.D. Power.

LMC said it is maintaining its full-year 2013 sales forecast of 15.6 million new vehicles sold, up from 14.5 million last year.

"The U.S. auto recovery seems to be operating on auto pilot, a welcome stage of stability at a higher pace," said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive.

Schuster said auto sales will continue to remain strong "well into 2014."

North American light-vehicle production through July was up 4 percent from last year as the industry continues to manage a lean supply-to-demand ratio, J.D. Power and LMC said.

Among individual automakers, the highest production growth this year has been made by South Korean sister companies Hyundai Motor Co <005380.KS> and Kia Motors Corp <000270.KS>, which are up 14 percent. Almost all of the higher output comes from two Hyundai models, the Elantra sedan and the Santa Fe crossover, the analysts said.

Ford Motor Co North American production is up 13 percent this year, largely on more Escape crossover and Explorer SUV output.

General Motors Co production is down 3 percent in the region and output by Fiat-Chrysler is relatively flat.

North American production for European brands is down 2 percent through July, according to J.D. Power and LMC.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Eric Beech)