Nissan sales rise 4.9 pct., bucking forecasts of down month

(AP Photo)

DETROIT (AP) — Nissan says its September sales rose 4.9 percent, defying analyst expectations of a U.S. sales decline as demand for cars and trucks has peaked.

The Japanese automaker says it sold almost 128,000 vehicles last month, a record for September.

The company was led by sales of crossover SUVs and trucks, which were up 18.9 percent. But car sales were down 5.8 percent. Sales of the Rogue small SUV were up 6 percent to more than 26,000, a September record.

Nissan sales include the Nissan brand and the Infiniti luxury brand. The company is the first of major automakers to report sales on Monday.

J.D. Power and LMC Automotive are predicting that U.S. auto sales will fall 1 percent to 1.4 million in September, the fourth month of declining sales this year. But sales still will be at or near last year’s record of 17.5 million.

That’s mixed news for the industry. On the one hand, sales remain near historic highs. Favorable conditions such as low interest rates and low gas prices remain in place.

But after six straight years of growth, demand is clearly slowing. U.S. sales were up less than 1 percent through August, and a decline in September could push the year’s totals into negative territory.

That has automakers pushing harder for sales. Incentive spending hit a record of $3,923 per vehicle last month, surpassing the previous high set in December 2008 during the recession.

BMW was offering $6,732 in incentives per vehicle in September, up 44 percent from a year ago, according to Fiat Chrysler spent $4,302 per vehicle on deals, up 23 percent. Buyers could get $4,500 cash back on a 2016 Ford Escape or $2,000 on a 2017 Chevrolet Malibu.

“Competitive pressure is at an all-time high,” said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president and general manager of automotive data for LMC Automotive.