What’s Happening to Volkswagen’s Sales After “Dieselgate”

 JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images

JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images

Renowned auto market authority Edmunds.com has an interesting way of describing the woes of Volkswagen after this year’s “dieselgate” scandal. In a report released earlier this month, Edmunds.com sees the broader auto sales market booming for October, while VW’s sales stay depressingly flat.

Overall, Edmunds.com expects 1,424,568 new vehicles to be sold in October. That’s a Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate of about 17.8 million (that means industry experts have looked at past data, and adjusted the numbers to fit a seasonal sales model). This projected sales rate would be a 1% gain from last month, but a whopping 11.5% gain from October last year. It’ll also be the biggest October sales volume since 2001.

But for those who hope VW will share in some of that boom, the existing numbers suggest it will be a while before the German automaker’s popularity returns. In a new assessment of increases organized by auto company, the list shows that VW has the lowest increases, at a year-over-year boost of about 5%. In contrast, Ford and Fiat-Chrysler have both projected gains of around 14%, and Hyundai/Kia has 13%. GM has 12%; Toyota and Honda both get 7%. Nissan gets 9%.

“In this year of booming auto sales, no automaker should be relieved to see flat year-over-year performance, but this may be the best that Volkswagen can hope for this month,” says Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds.com’s Senior Analyst. “Until VW starts down a road to recovery by informing owners of a specific fix to their diesel vehicles, the company is likely to make far fewer sales than this surging market would otherwise deliver to them.”

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

So if it’s not VW, who’s selling? Edmunds.com also released a telling list of most-researched new car models in September.

Some are sporty, high-performance cars such as the Ford Mustang, a perennial favorite that’s bought for style and power. There’s also the Lexus RX 350 and the BMW 3 Series, both often bought for badge appeal. There’s the Subaru Outback with its reliable reputation, and the Toyota Camry and Honda Civic, both top models from trusted Japanese auto firms.

Companies looking at the broader economic picture also see the auto sales increase as a belated response to the belt-tightening that went on in 2008 and 2009 after the near-depression caused people to put off big purchases. New reports from J.D. Power and Associates suggest that more of those buyers may now be confident enough to sign on the dotted line.

“Right now the auto industry is in the midst of a cycle where sales and pricing are very strong,” said J.D. Power’s Deirdre Borrego in a CBS news story on October 15. “I’m cautiously optimistic that will continue at least through next year.”

So this Halloween, the little trick-or-treaters who navigate our neighborhoods will be winding their way around more new cars parked in America’s driveways: Look for this strong sales environment to continue as the year ends.

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