September auto sales could reverse a negative trend troubling the industry

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September auto sales could reverse a negative trend troubling the industry

September US auto sales could be great again. Justin Sullivan/Getty

Major automakers will report September US sales on Tuesday, and analysts expect the numbers to reverse a months-long trend.

The September yearly sales pace could come in closer to the record years of 2015 and 2016 — 17.5 million and 17.55 million respectively — for the first time since April.

Predictions range from a low of 17.2 million to a high of 17.6 million, according to analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

The consensus is for 17.4 million, a dip from last September, but the US sales market during the second half of 2016 was running very hot, surging toward an all-time record.

Very few market observers expected that torrid pace to hold up.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the auto industry is expecting a boost in new car sales during the fourth quarter to replace damaged or destroyed vehicles in the Southeast. So 2017 could end slightly below 2016 in terms of sales, but with the healthy pace by historical standards.

Regardless of how the numbers shake down, one thing is certain: September US auto sales will continue to be all about crossover SUVs and pickup trucks, the highly profitable vehicles that have defined the boom times of the past two years. 

The money made from these vehicles has enabled automakers to build up their balance sheets and sock away cash for a sales downturn.

That downturn, however, looks as though it won't arrive until sometime in late 2018 or early 2019.

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