Tennessee carmakers report sales spurt

Tennessee carmakers report sales spurt

February 2nd, 2013 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

New Volkswagen Passats await transport outside of the Chattanooga assembly plant.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.


New vehicles titled in Hamilton County rose 6.7 percent last month:

January 2013 1,102

January 2012 1,032

Source: Clerk's Office


Volkswagen sales of Passat were up 40 percent last month:

January 2013 8,856

January 2012 6,318

Source: Volkswagen

All three automakers with Tennessee assembly plants on Friday posted higher January U.S. sales, with Volkswagen's Chattanooga-made Passat up 40 percent over a year ago.

"We're as strong as we were in 2012," said Frank Trivieri, Volkswagen of America's executive vice president of sales.

VW reported it sold 29,018 vehicles, up 6.7 percent over the same month a year ago. While VW has been reporting double-digit percent gains, officials said monthly comparisons will narrow because of earlier sharp sales hikes.

Still, last month was the German automaker's best January in the U.S. since 1974, the company said.

Passat sales hit 8,856 last month, which was its best January ever, according to VW.

Meanwhile, Nissan sold 80,919 vehicles in January, up 2 percent from the year earlier. Sales of its Pathfinder sport utility vehicle more than tripled last month over the year-ago level to 6,281 vehicles. Sales of the Nissan Sentra and Versa were up 27 percent and 9 percent year-over-year respectively.

Don Thomas, dealer principal at Mountain View Nissan, said sales at the Chattanooga dealership started the year strong and he expects sales for all of 2013 to rise from 12 to 15 percent.

"That's what we're shooting for and it's attainable," he said. Nissan has plants in Decherd, Tenn., and Smyrna, Tenn.

General Motors reported it sold 194,000 cars and trucks during the month, a 15.9 percent increase over the same period a year ago.

The company, with a factory in Spring Hill, Tenn., said all four of its brands -- Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick -- had double-digit increases in January.

Meanwhile, Chrysler posted sales of 117,000 vehicles in January. That was a 16.3 percent increase over the same month in 2012.

Andy Ziegler, Internet sales director for Ringgold Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram SRT, said the month started slowly but picked up at the end.

He said the new Dodge Viper is expected to hit dealership floors in mid-February, and that should help fuel sales.

"We'll have one of the largest allotments than anyone locally," Ziegler said about the Viper.

The automakers' January results raised expectations that the industry's steady recovery would accelerate in 2013.

Jonathan Browning, VW Group of America's chief executive, said January sales were "choppy."

"It reaffirms our view of a more cautious approach," he said in a conference call with analysts and reporters.

Browning predicted this year's sales industrywide would come in at about 15.1 million. Last year, sales were at 14.5 million, according to Reuters.

Still, not everyone is in a position to buy a new car.

Chattanoogan Nathan Gebele said he's in graduate school and "any thought of a car is put on hold."

But Gebele said a lot of people already have put off purchasing a car because of the weak economy.

"People are going to have to buy one," he said.

Ford Motor Co. said its sales in January rose 21.8 percent to 166,000 vehicles. Executives at Ford said the company expects consumer demand to consistently grow in 2013.

"The biggest driver of the year is going to be replacement," Ken Czubay, Ford's U.S. sales and marketing chief, told The New York Times.

Toyota, the largest Japanese automaker, said its sales in January grew 26.6 percent to 157,000 vehicles.