Top 10 Best-Selling Cars: September 2011

Detroit automakers continued to roll last month, with double-digit sales improvements for Chrysler (up 27.2 percent) and GM (up 19.6 percent) versus September 2010. Still under the shadow of a shuttered Mercury division, Ford sales improved 8.9 percent.

Improved sales across the industry didn’t lift Toyota or Honda. Despite predictions of a return to full production following the Japan earthquake in March, both automakers’ inventory shortages continued to hurt sales, which were down 17.5 percent at Toyota and 8.0 percent at Honda. Nissan, which didn’t see such supply shortages, jumped 25.3 percent in sales.

The result? The monthly best-sellers haven’t shifted much.

Nine of them made August’s list, and four — the Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado, Toyota Camry and Honda Accord — stayed in the same spot. The lone newcomer, Honda’s CR-V, hasn’t been here since last February. Credit improved sales, up 9.5 percent from September 2010, and stabilized inventory levels. Honda dealers had a steady supply of CR-V crossovers versus a year ago, while the automaker’s traditional best-sellers, the Civic and Accord, saw drastic reductions. Unsurprisingly, monthly Accord sales were down 13.8 percent; the Civic fell even farther off the list, with sales off 26.4 percent.

With sales for the redesigned 2012 model trickling in, the Camry maintained its position as America’s best-selling sedan. Ahead and behind it, full-size Detroit pickup trucks continued their dominance. Sales for Chrysler’s Ram pickups jumped 45.4 percent, and the Chevrolet Silverado climbed 35.8 percent. Ford’s venerable F-Series improved 14.7 percent to maintain a comfortable lead. Higher incentives on the Ram brought some shoppers into the showroom, but Ford and Chevrolet didn’t throw much additional cash on the hood. Credit higher inventory and more popularity for the F-150’s six-cylinder engines, including the EcoBoost 3.5-liter, Ford says.

Automakers say autumn represents a traditional uptick in pickup and SUV sales. Stabilizing gas prices, which are down about 50 cents a gallon for regular unleaded since spring, have brought even more shoppers into the fray.

“Our full-size utilities were up about 56 percent,” GM Sales Vice President Don Johnson told reporters in a conference call. “With gas prices stabilizing, with at least some stability in consumer confidence, we weren’t totally surprised to see [that]. … At this time of the year, collectively the industry tends to advertise trucks more. We and our competitors are in football and in Major League Baseball.”

Ford sales analyst Erich Merkle called September “a strong truck month; there is a lot of merchandizing that happens around the pickup truck.”

Even Toyota division general manager Bob Carter said there were “encouraging signs in the pickup truck market.” The brand’s Tundra pickup saw stable sales amid falling numbers across the rest of Toyota; it didn’t make the list, however.

Elsewhere, rising sales brought the Ford Fusion (up 22.6 percent) and Escape (up 41.3 percent) up two spots each. Neither model has huge incentives versus September 2010, despite the current-generation Escape nearing the end of its life. The same goes for the Altima, up 21.7 percent. Incentives crept up for Nissan’s best-selling model but not by a huge margin.

The Chevrolet Cruze, whose monthly sales broke 20,000 all summer long, dropped to 18,097 in September, knocking it off the top 10 list. Johnson defended the decline, telling reporters seasonally adjusted sales rates were “basically bang-on with what we did in August and July.”

Falling sales (down 11.9 percent) brought Hyundai’s best-selling Sonata sedan, which ranked seventh in August, to 10th place for September. Over the full month, GM, Ford and Chrysler remain America’s best-selling automakers, with Toyota and Nissan following. That’s no change from last month’s order.

See the sales table below. Inventory and incentive data are courtesy of Automotive News.


By Kelsey Mays | October 3, 2011 | Comments (27)
Tags: Best Sellers


Amuro Ray

Suggestion: since has a green car section, and u folks have a Volt & a LEAF, maybe a report on green car sales (limited to hybrid, PHEV, and ZEV)?

Would like to see your comments (so it's more than just numbers) and possible predictions...


"Despite predictions of a return to full production following the Japan earthquake in March, both automakers’ inventory shortages continued to hurt sales, which were down 17.5 percent at Toyota and 8.0 percent at Honda."

I'm not trying to start an argument but can you please explain your data for making this statement?

See last month's post:

"Despite their August sales numbers, Toyota and Honda remain optimistic that sales will pick up in September. Both automakers noted that car production is back at 100% after the tsunami in Japan slowed down production."



finally! more facts being included about overall sales instead of only talking about the top 10 sellers. Honda and Toyota have issues beyond inventory- in reality both brands have relatively decent inventory of most models so that excuse is wearing a little thin. Improved competition and dated lineups are also a factor. Honda does have some new stuff coming this fall with the CR-V and Pilot though. Let's not forget Toyota was losing share before the quake- a fact many seem to be ignoring as they rush to blame Toyota's performance on the quake each and every month. Honda was doing OK, but not keeping pace with the sales increases of its domestic or Korean rivals. This has been developing since 2010.


Every single top 10 vehicle is a full size truck, a midsize car, or a compact SUV. Interesting to me.


Congratulations to Ford, Gm & Dodge. They are comming out with some good reliable products.

Its time to accept the truth that domestic makers are winning. you guys have been using 'quake' realted excuse for long time. something new please. please don;t be biased towards japanese makers. You have been using that excuse since japanese quake.


Kudos to the domestic manufacturers for putting in some great effort which is translating to some really appealing new cars. I think they are finally gaining some real traction and starting to appear on a lot of new car shopping lists.


Also, we really need to stop using the earthquake and tsunami excuses. Every Honda and Toyota lot I see are always jam packed with cars.

Derrick G

Well Honda and Toyota are both claiming that full production should be resumed this month, so come a month from now they'd both better be up from last year or we better not be hearing this excuse.



You failed to copy the next sentence:

"That return to normalcy occurred toward the end of August, so we’ll have to wait and see how September turns out to get an indication of a second wind at either carmaker."

September came and went. Same result. Unless you can really show proof that lack of inventory is causing the sales losses then you really should stop giving them an external excuse.


Not to pile on, but lack of inventory shouldn't hurt sales numbers, lack of supply should.

The normal situation can't be that they sell cars faster than they produce them, that is unsustainable for very long. Instead, normal sales should match normal capacity. Inventory has nothing to do with it, sales capacity is tied to manufacturing capacity. If they are manufacturing at full capacity, but sales are down, it has nothing to do with inventory, they just can't sell cars.

The only exception is if a sufficient inventory is necessary to give people enough variety to find the car they want. If that is the problem, then this situation will resolve itself soon as unsold cars build up.


I found a site where you can get coupons for restaurant called "Printapons" they are on all over the news, search online


@ loistrejo,

YEAH! I like getting free coupons from a website that has absolutely not WOT rating!! :sarcasm:


it amazes me that the escape continues to sell so well. aside from the ancient ford ranger, it's riding one of the oldest platform in the auto industry. you guys love to point out how old the impala's platform is, but i have never read anyone comment on the escape. it continues to be based on the old mazda 626 platform! remember that car?? it was sold before mazda went to their goofy mazda# naming scheme. so when the escape came out in 2000, it was already based on an old platform from the 90s.

i guess the continued strong sells provided good justification in ford hq for not really doing anything other than cosmetic updates for over a decade.


I agree with those who say we need some proof that inventory is the problem. Toyota gs said they are back to full production already and will not post another salts has said that are back to full production on every model except civic. on top of that they increased incentives more than any other automaker least month which means they have cars to sell. its time you stop using the quake as an excuse. every single month honda and toyota say they erik have enough cars the next month. The competition is eating into thirty share with improved products and it's time to admit that. I don't see why each months list has tho be all about how well two japanese brands fare anyway.

I think you can simply go ask a Honda dealer if he has a Civic to sell you. The strength or CR-V and other well-stocked vehicles goes to show that there isn't a demand problem, it is all supply. Having these disruptions with the launch of a new model is doubly bad. We're not making excuses. Nissan's overseas operations were least impacted by the quake and tsunami, they have rebounded. Toyota and Honda haven't. See Subaru delaying the Impreza launch until November as a clear example.

Amuro Ray

Wow, a promotion for you, DT. Managing Editor now! Who's being promoted to Senior Editor?



I know you guys don't listen to me, but I just said civic is only model that isn't back to 100% for honda. Honda is the source of that informtion. Honda has other products that aren't doing as well as expected, including accord, fit and odyssey. Unless you guys are going to offer direct information from thee company sales calls regarding these numbes you shouldn't be adding disclaimers to explain the performance of honda and toyota. Btw, this very site makes a HUGE deal about how american hondas and toyotas are these days. Find it ironic that you are now saying they are struggling sales wise because of a japanese quake that happened 6 months ago. As this site reminds us yearly, the top selling japanese branded products are built here and havee mostly domestic content so we can't keep dismissing slow sales of some of their dated models by saying there isn't enough inventory. Honda ramped up incentives last month which only happens when you have cars to sell. Earlier in the year edmunds reported that hyundai had wors inventory issues than honda or toyota because they can't meet demand for hot products. The shortage of one model (civic) doesn't mean that their are mass shortages of product for these brands. Toyota has been at full production on most of its us products for a while now..


Using your database which is not all-encompassing there are 51 Civics available within 50 miles and 227 available within 150 miles of my zipcode. The closest dealer has 15 sedans and 2 coupes. That's not copious but they've got cars to sell (and they are discounting them).

The Subaru comparison is off-base when one factory is in Gunma, Japan and the comparable is in Greensburg, Indiana. Not to mention a parts disruption is one thing versus the retooling an entire assembly plant and supporting plants for a brand new model.

Let me ask you do you truly believe that Toyota and Honda sales will return to pre-quake levels in a matter of another month or two?


Good point wtf, there is no comparison between honda and suburu. Suburu builds most of its vehicles in japan and has a far smaller us footprint than honda or toyota. On top of that, suburu has barely suffered in terms of sales. Toyota said they have a 30 day supply of cars and over 30 day supply of trucks, less than normal, but not terrible. Japanese brands typically run leaner inventories than the domestics so 30 isn't as bad as it sounds. Based on honda incentives I would guess honda has an even better supply of vehicles. The accord, pilot and odyssey are built in na for americans and have mostly domestic content. Honda isn't even claiming supply is the main issue as this stage. Toyota is currently running ads remindiing people they have plenty of product to see at dealers.


I did a search for my area on

213 2012 civics
392 cruzes (12s)
292 foci
44 elantras
222 corollas

This is within 30m of my location. Looks like hyundai is the real loser when it comes to inventory. Ford has been claiming supply has constrained focus sales since it launched.


I hate Korean cars


i believe you should buy what is in the best interest of your family , however with 9% unemployment i would encourage you to atleast look at American made cars when shopping for a new vehicle. my last mustang went 300k and only traded in cause it was getting long in the tooth!

J Humphreys

I agree. I have a 1994 K Blazer. It just turned 200,000 miles and looks and drives like new. I can't imagine selling it for something else! The thing is all stock and bullet proof.

Mike Smith

Sheth you should listen to DT. He knows what he's talking about. Your statement about most Honda cars being made in U.S. is true, but the earthquake/tsunami caused parts shortages in models made here in America. Think about it for one second. Can you make/sell a car that is missing just one part? Duh. Maybe I'm biased, but I will NEVER buy a GM car that was made with MY tax dollars because it is such a pathetic company that it had to beg Obama for $$ like a street begger. GM overpaid their union workers and made cars that broke down after 36 months and couldn't turn a profit. They get what they deserve. How 'bout that Volt? A real government subsidised POJ. When I "buy American" it'll be a HONDA made in the good 'ol U.S. of A!


Ignorant and arrogant is no way to go through life son.

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