September new vehicle sales grew in Chattanooga over last year — the first full month since the coronavirus pandemic hit to post a gain.
September registrations were 1,207 vehicles, up 4.3% from the same month in 2019, according to the Hamilton County Clerk's office.
Brent Morgan, president of Integrity Automotive Group in Chattanooga, said September was a strong month for all its stores.
Part of the reason was that manufacturers are supplying more inventory, he said. The coronavirus pandemic had caused automakers to close and then slowly ramp up their factories.
"Manufacturers have caught up from an inventory standpoint," Morgan said. "We've been able to have a great selection of vehicles. One of the real positive things is inventory availability."
He said sales at Integrity's Mazda store, which it purchased this summer, are up 27% over the prior-year period. Also, Integrity's GMC store sold more Sierra trucks than any General Motors dealership in the district that includes Nashville, Middle Tennessee and North Georgia, Morgan said.
— Toyota, down 11%.
— General Motors, off 9.9%
— Fiat Chrysler, off 10.2%.
Third quarter vehicle sales
— Nissan, down 32.4%.
— Honda, down 9.5%
— Hyundai/Kia, up 1.4%
— Volkswagen/Audi, down 10.8%
Joe Kirby, the dealer at Edd Kirby's Adventure Mitsubishi in Chattanooga, said the store has had better year-over-year months not just in September but earlier as well.
Kirby said people aren't traveling and staying in hotels as much due to the coronavirus, but they can buy a vehicle. Just as families are staying home and putting money into their residences, they're buying cars and boats, he said.
"We're doing more business than we have," Kirby said.
Looking ahead, Kirby said that the last quarter of a presidential election year usually is a tough one, but 2020 may be different.
"My outlook for the future is wary, not pessimistic," he said.
Morgan said he believes people in the Chattanooga area are confident about the region's economy.
"For the rest of the year, I see that continuing," he said. "Incentives are still very strong."
Auto sales nationally in September grew 4.8% over a year ago, the first monthly increase since February, according to The Associated Press.
But for the entire third quarter, sales dropped 9.7%. Automakers attributed a lot of the third-quarter decline to falling sales to large fleet buyers such as rental car companies.
Volkswagen of America reported third quarter sales were off 7.6% from a year ago to 86,446 vehicles.
Still, sales of the Chattanooga-built Atlas SUV family of vehicles were up 10%, the company reported. Also, sales of the midsize Passat sedan, also assembled in Chattanooga, were 302% higher as production on the vehicle a year ago was curtailed by a model change.
SUVs accounted for more than 60% of VW sales in the quarter, the company reported. The compact Jetta sedan posted a 22% decline in the quarter, according to VW.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Contact Mike Pare at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.