Volkswagen brand sales trail auto market

Sebastian Patta, VP of human resources for Volkswagen in Chattanooga, speaks during the commencement ceremony for graduates of the Automation Mechatronics Program, an apprenticeship initiative based on a European model in this file photo.

While U.S. auto sales jumped in September for most car makers, the Volkswagen brand Thursday reported relatively flat sales compared with a year ago in the wake of its emission scandal.

The Chattanooga-made Passat posted less than a 1 percent drop as diesels typically make up 29 percent of sales.

VW brand sales reflect the mid-month stop-sale for all 2.0 liter, 4-cylinder diesel vehicles due to the investigation by EPA into emissions compliance.

Bill Blair, general sales manager of Harper Volkswagen in Knoxville, said the automaker's emission scandal blindsided everybody, but he thinks it will eventually blow over.

"You've got a few people who say 'Oh my god, my car has no value,'" he said. "That's a little drama. Bring it down here and if you're interested in trading we'll buy it back."

General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Ford Motor, Nissan, Toyota, Hyundai, and Subaru each posted double-digit percentage increases over a year ago as buyers spent on pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles.

Even Volkswagen Group unit Audi, which has only one model affected by the emission troubles, reported a 16.2 percent gain in September over a year ago.

Kelley Blue Book reported that overall new-car prices have increased by $660, up 2 percent, from September 2014, and nearly all automakers saw higher year-over-year increases except VW and Toyota.

"The recent Volkswagen crisis undoubtedly has impacted pricing, and likely will impact sales," said Akshay Anand, a Kelley analyst. "TDI models were priced higher than their regular-combustion siblings, and with the stop in sales on all Volkswagen diesels, the automaker has a rough road ahead, not only through 2015 but into 2016 as well."

For the VW brand, September sales were 26,141 units, a 0.56 percent increase over a year ago, according to the company.

The Golf family delivered 5,251 units, up 50.6 percent increase over the previous September. Sales of the Tiguan SUV of 2,972 units were a 77.5 percent increase, marking the best September on record.

Mark McNabb, chief operating officer for Volkswagen of America, said the auto company "will continue to work diligently to regain trust and confidence in our brand."

"We would like to thank dealers and customers for the support of the Volkswagen brand," he said in a statement.

For the year, VW brand sales are down 2.46 percent at 264,215 vehicles.

Audi's September results were bolstered by sales of luxury SUVs, with a 44.3 percent increase for the Audi Q3, Q5 and Q7 models combined, the company said.

Audi reported September sales rose to 17,340 vehicles, a 57th straight month of record U.S. sales.

Auto sales also got a boost from the calendar, with the entire Labor Day weekend falling in September for the first time since 2012.

Contact Mike Pare at or 423-757-6318.