Volkswagen of America posted September sales that climbed by a third over a year ago, driven largely by demand for its sport utility vehicles.
The German automaker with an assembly plant in Chattanooga reported a sales gain of 33.2 percent last month over September 2016 as it joined a number of other car companies in seeing large jumps in the period partly helped by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
SUVs accounted for more than 26 percent of total sales for the Volkswagen brand last month. The Chattanooga-made Atlas rang up sales of 4,095 vehicles, its best month since it went on sale in May. The all-new Tiguan's sales hit 3,075 units.
However, sales of the Passat, also made in Chattanooga, fell by 26.8 percent to 4,636 vehicles, the company reported.
September new vehicle sales in Hamilton County fell 3.8 percent to 1,139 compared to the same period last year, according to the Clerk’s Office.
Toyota posted a 14.9 percent increase in sales for September from a year ago. GM reported that sales rose 11.9 percent, while Nissan sales were up 9.5 percent and Honda sales were 6.8 percent higher. Ford sales climbed 8.7 percent.
Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for Autotrader, said vehicle sales surpassed forecasts thanks to a strengthening economy and replacement demand created by Harvey and Irma and attractive model-year-end deals.
"A strong September may push the year past the 17 million sales mark, but the celebration will likely be short-lived," she said. "The industry is healthy, but new sales records will remain far out of reach as a number of headwinds continue to hold new car sales in check."
Strong pickup truck and SUV sales propelled the September increase for automakers.
Herbert Diess, global chief for the VW brand, said in Chattanooga this summer that the company plans to introduce more SUVs and crossovers to the market by 2020. He said that plans are for the vehicles to make up 40 percent of its total sales, up from 15 percent currently.
"SUVs are a worldwide trend we're investing in," Diess said.
Ford's F-Series pickup sales rose 21 percent from a year ago, while SUV sales were up 8.8 percent. Inventory levels dropped to a 72-day supply.
Still, Fiat Chrysler sales fell 10 percent and Hyundai, which relies on cars for much of its results rather than SUVs and trucks, saw sales fall 14.4 percent. Both blamed reductions in sales to big fleet buyers such as rental car companies.
Volkswagen saw stronger Jetta sales in September of 12,038 vehicles, up 45.1 percent.
In addition, its Golf family reported sales of 5,685 units, up 25 percent.
Total Volkswagen of America sales for the month were 32,112 vehicles. For the year through September, VW sales are 252,456 units, up 9.2 percent, company figures show.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318.