New auto sales in Hamilton County stalled last month, posting the lowest September in nearly a decade as dealers grappled with the twin ills of a surge in coronavirus cases and a shortage of vehicles.
Across the nation, new vehicle sales tumbled about 26% in September as many frustrated consumers went to the sidelines to wait out the shortage due to a computer chip supply-chain problem.
In Hamilton County, only 947 new cars and trucks were registered last month. Not since September 2012 has the number of new vehicles titled previously fell under 1,000 in September, according to the county clerk's office.
Still, for the year, Hamilton County sales are still up 17.4% over the same period in 2020 due to stronger sales earlier this year, figures show
Auto dealers said they're making the best out of the situation and adapting.
Nick Pistone, sales manager at Porsche of Chattanooga, said every dealer's inventory is tight due to a lack of computer chips at the manufacturing level to put into new vehicles.
He said his dealership is "pre-selling everything," and that helped Porsche of Chattanooga to manage through the third quarter "pretty good."
"Our job is to adapt," Pistone said. "Everyone I talked to is kind of doing the same thing we have. We're continuing to do business."
But nationally, September was the lowest sales month of the year, Edmunds said.
Also, for the third quarter, sales were 3.4 million, down 13% from the same period a year ago.
General Motors said its deliveries were off nearly 33% from July through September of last year. Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler, saw quarterly sales dip 19%, while Nissan sales were down 10% for the quarter, according to the Associated Press.
Volkswagen of America reported third-quarter sales were down 8.2%. Total sales of the Atlas, which is built in Chattanooga, fell 5.3% in the quarter, the company reported.
However, sales of the Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport are still up 66% for the year over the same period in 2020. Volkswagen of America reported that its sales overall are up 26% for the year through September.
Johan de Nysschen, chief operating officer at Volkswagen Group of America, said last month in Chattanooga that the company is on track to sell more than 400,000 vehicles in 2021 in the U.S.
"Here in the U.S., we are coming out fighting in the COVID corner," he said, adding it has been a long time since VW sales have hit that mark in America.
SUV sales in the third quarter for VW were up 18%, with the new ID.4 electric vehicle selling 12,279 units for the year through September. Starting next year, ID.4 production will begin in Chattanooga, according to the automaker that is investing $800 million at the plant to build EVs.
Cox Automotive reported that new vehicle inventory last month fell even further than initially expected. New vehicle sales in September finished near its forecasted volume of 1 million units, among the lowest for a month in the past decade, the company said.
According to Cox, some automakers are grabbing market share in 2021, including Toyota, Hyundai/Kia, and Honda.
Through the first nine months, Toyota is outpacing General Motors, which has been the top automaker in the U.S. for nearly a century. Cox said it's possible GM might fall to No. 2 in America by year's end.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Contact Mike Pare at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.