Updated at 10:29 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2018, with more information.
Local vehicle sales drop
* August sales of new cars in Hamilton County last month were down 16.8 percent from a year ago to 382.
* August truck sales of new trucks in Hamilton County last month were down 7.5 percent to 674.
* Total vehicle sales of new models in Hamilton County so far this year are down 10.8 percent to 7,911
Source: Hamilton County Clerk’s Office new vehicle registrations.
Sales edged higher in August over a year ago for Volkswagen of America with the help of the new Jetta sedan and the Tiguan and Atlas SUVs.
Volkswagen posted sales of 32,255 vehicles in August, up 0.7 percent over the same month last year. Through August, VW sales so far this year totaled 235,673 vehicles, up 7 percent over last year's sales volmes.
Jetta sales were 10,597 in August. Sales of the all-new 2018 Tiguan hit 7,281 units, while the Chattanooga-made Atlas totaled 4,054 units.
"We're happy to see the all-new Jetta gain traction, with sales topping 10,000 units this month," said Derrick Hatami, executive vice president of sales, marketing and after sales for Volkswagen of America.
He said a focus on U.S. motorists is helping push sales.
"We see this customer focus working across the lineup, as our two new SUVs, Atlas and Tiguan, are also tailored for this market and are driving our growth this year," Hatami said.
Nationwide, Americans continued to move to SUVs, pickups and crossover vehicles while cutting their purchases of passenger sedan models.
Passenger cars dropped below 30 percent of the market in August for the first month ever, according to Cox Automotive. Until a few years ago, passenger cars comprised over half of all sales.
In Hamilton County, 36 percent of the vehicles sold last month were cars, compared with 64 percent that were trucks.
Analysts said motorists are choosing bigger vehicles and roomier rides with relatively low gasoline prices and more fuel efficient trucks.
"Initial results imply a continued shift from passenger cars — mid-size sedans in particular — toward light trucks," Stephanie Brinley, analyst with IHS Markit, said in a research note Tuesday.
Last month, Toyota car sales dropped 15.6 percent; Nissan car sales were down 16.2 percent, and Honda car sales were off 15.3 percent.
"That tells you where the traditional car market is going," Autotrader analyst Michelle Krebs told USA Today.
Fiat Chrysler sales rose 10 percent in August compared to a year ago on the backs of the Jeep and Ram brands.
"Our August results highlight how the all-new Ram light-duty is coming into its own," said Reid Bigland, head of U.S. sales, in a statement. "Ram light-duty total sales rose 55 percent to 36,798 vehicles for the month."
Ford sales were up nearly 4.1 percent overall, aided by gains in truck sales.
Ford has already announced plans to discontinue most of its passenger cars, including the Fiesta, Fusion, Focus and Taurus. Fiat Chrysler already axed most of its cars.