New car sales in Buffalo Niagara cooled off in September.
Franchised new-car dealers sold 4,139 units for the month, down 5 percent from a year ago, according to the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association.
The region’s year-to-date total was still 3.7 percent ahead of the same nine-month period in 2011, at 40,215, the NFADA said.
September’s total was the second-lowest monthly total so far this year; only January’s was lower. By comparison, September 2011 was the fourth-highest monthly total for local auto sales last year.
Sales figures for both years exclude auto heavyweight Chevrolet, which does not disclose its local results. Among the brands that reported totals, Ford led with 862 vehicles sold. But the total was the smallest for the Ford brand since January and was down nearly 22 percent from a year ago. Ford has 14 area dealers who contribute to the sales total.
Toyota, by comparison, reported a 34 percent increase in sales from a year earlier.
Some brands, including Toyota, benefited by comparison to last year’s numbers, which were below normal due to supply disruptions caused by the Japan earthquake and tsunami in early 2011.
Of the 10 leading brands that reported sales figures, five posted declines and five showed gains.
Paul Stasiak, president of the NFADA, said the drop-off in September was not dramatic. “Ultimately it wasn’t a bad month for us,” he said. “It was pretty consistent.”
Stasiak said October sales thus far are “a little slower than everybody would like.” He said some consumers might be holding back to see how the presidential election turns out before making a big-ticket purchase like a car.
He also noted that a number of area dealers are either in the midst of renovation projects or have just completed them, which could be impacting the normal flow of customer traffic.
Nationally, the auto sales picture in September was much brighter. The National Automobile Dealers Association said the U.S. auto industry sold 1.8 million units during the month, up almost 13 percent from the year before. Paul Taylor, the association’s economist, said consumers had more confidence in the economy.
Edmunds.com said national sales in September came in stronger than expected, thanks to a combination of continued unleashing of pent-up demand for vehicles, cheap credit that was widely available, and an influx of recently introduced models of vehicles.