A WardsAuto forecast calls for U.S. light-vehicle sales to reach a 17.5 million-unit seasonally adjusted annual rate in September, following August’s 16.0 million SAAR and ending a 6-month streak of sub-17 million figures. In same-month 2016, the SAAR reached 17.6 million.

The report is calling for 1.44 million light vehicles to be delivered over 26 selling days in September. The resulting daily sales rate of 55,293 units represents a 3.3% decline from year-ago (25 days). The 1.2% gain from August (27 days) contrasts the average 4% decline seen over the past seven years from August to September.

Preliminary assumptions pointed to October, rather than September, as the turning point for the market, as consumers replace vehicles lost due to natural disasters and automakers push sales to clear out excess model-year ’17 stock. However, the winds have already begun to turn, and September sales will be significantly higher than originally expected.

Dealer inventory heading into September was approximately 15% to 20% too high for current demand, based on WardsAuto calculations. U.S. light-vehicle inventory ended August at 3.85 million units, 7.6% above same-month 2016. Dealers ended August with a 70 days’ supply, up from July’s 69 and year-ago’s 62. A level in the high 50s typically is optimum for August.

The forecast shows 3.82 million vehicles in stock at the end of September, a 69 days’ supply at the expected sales rate, greater than year-ago (64 days) and the 10-year average for the month (60 days).

General Motors is forecast to sell approximately 270,000 light vehicles in September. DSR is up 3.8% from year-ago. Year-to-date volume would reach 2.18 million units, 1.3% below prior-year.

Of the top seven automakers, the best year-on-year results are expected from Toyota, rising 4.8% on just under 215,000 deliveries, boosted partly by relatively high fleet sales. Market share will jump from prior-year’s 13.8% to 14.9%. Year-to-date, the automaker’s sales are forecast nearly on par with same-period 2016 at 1.82 million.

Ford is expected to post daily sales 1.8% below like-2016 on 203,000 LV deliveries. Its 9-month total of 1.87 million is 3.6% under last year.

FCA US, down from year-ago for the 13th straight month (17.1% in September), will deliver 165,000 LVs. The automaker’s market share will drop to 11.5% versus 13.4% in like-2016. The January-September total would be 1.56 million, down 8.5%.

Nissan is expected to come in 6.1% below prior-year, selling 125,000 vehicles. This drop brings the 9-month total just slightly behind like-2016, at 1.18 million units.

Honda sales are forecast to increase 0.5% over year-ago on 140,000 deliveries. The January-September tally is flat with last year, 1.23 million.

Hyundai-Kia Group could see a year-over-year drop of 14.0% this month, with the Hyundai brand taking the deepest dive. Forecast volume of 104,000 vehicles brings the sister companies’ total to 964,000 units this year through September, resulting in a 10.7% drop from like-2016.

At forecast levels, industrywide year-to-date LV sales through September would come to 12.72 million units, down 2.5% from same-period 2017. WardsAuto anticipates 17.0 million sales for full-year 2017.

esunde@wardsauto.com