October 1, 2019 / 3:15 PM / 19 days ago

U.S. September auto sales fall as shift in Labor Day holiday hurts

(Reuters) - Automakers, including Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) and Hyundai Motor (005380.KS), on Tuesday reported a sharp drop in September U.S. sales, hurt by the early timing of Labor Day as sales from the holiday weekend were booked in August.

FILE PHOTO: A Toyota logo is displayed at the 89th Geneva International Motor Show in Geneva, Switzerland March 5, 2019. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy

The Labor Day weekend is one of the busiest car-buying periods in the United States that has automakers and dealers roll out promotions days in advance to boost sales.

Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) said it U.S. sales fell 16.5% to 169,656 vehicles in September, hurt by lower sales of its Highlander and Tacoma sport utility vehicles, as well as declining demand for sedans such as Camry and Prius.

Hyundai Motor’s (005380.KS) U.S. sales tumbled 9% to 51,951 automobiles last month, due to lower volumes of its Elantra and Sonata sedans, while Nissan’s U.S. sales plunged 17.6% to 101,244 vehicles on lower sales of its Sentra sedan and Rogue SUV.

U.S. automakers are focusing on selling larger SUVs and trucks that are more profitable.

While higher vehicle prices and rising interest rates earlier in the year kept car shoppers on the sidelines, analysts expect recent cuts in interest rates to boost car sales in the third quarter.

The average interest rate on a finance deal fell to 5.5% in the latest quarter, more than 60 basis points lower than the first quarter, according to auto consultants J.D. Power and LMC Automotive.

In the third quarter, sales in the United States slipped 1.2% to 627,194 vehicles for Toyota, rose 5% to 173,028 vehicles for Hyundai and fell 5% to 327,354 vehicles for Nissan.

U.S. car shopping website Edmunds has forecast third-quarter sales for the industry to rise by 0.8% to 4.3 million vehicles, led by volume gains at General Motors Co (GM.N).

GM, Ford (F.N) and Fiat Chrysler (FCAU.N) (FCHA.MI) report quarterly numbers on Wednesday.

Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Anil D'Silva

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