World vehicle sales reversed trend slightly in September, outpacing year-ago by 10%.

The result decidedly was higher than August’s 3.4% uptick and marked the first time in five months the year-over-year growth rate increased.

September’s positive result was boosted by a 24.1% sales increase in North America, which was propelled by a particularly favorable comparison with year-ago, when U.S. vehicle deliveries fell off dramatically in the wake of the government’s “Cash-for-Clunkers” scrappage program.

But last month’s global spike was due to more than just year-old statistical anomalies. The 6.47 million vehicles sold represented the third-highest monthly total in 2010 and a 17.1% gain on August.

Nevertheless, growth in Asia/Pacific regions slowed for the seventh-consecutive month, falling to 14.3% as year-ago comparisons bump up against the beginning of the major market expansion that began in second-half 2009.

Through September, vehicle sales in the region were tracking at an all-time high of 23.9 million units – nearly 31% ahead of year-ago.

Related document: World Vehicle Sales Summary

South America’s vehicle deliveries through September rose an estimated 7%, compared with like-2009, largely on the strength of considerable growth in Argentina (48.9%) and Venezuela (47.4%).

Analysis

Sales in Brazil, the region’s largest and the world’s fourth-biggest vehicle market, dipped below year-ago levels in September for the first time this year. However, it still remains nearly 10% ahead of like-2009.

South America, as a whole, was tracking nearly 13% ahead of year-ago for the first nine months.

Europe, however, stood in stark contrast to other major markets last month, with vehicle sales falling 2.8% from year-ago.

September was the third-consecutive month Europe underperformed 2009 levels, set in an environment of widespread government scrappage programs. The monthly total left deliveries in the first nine months just 0.1% ahead of prior-year.

While much of the September data from outside Europe represents an improvement over recent months, the global 10% year-to-year global growth rate – the third-lowest in 2010 – can still be viewed as part of overall slowing of the world vehicle market.

Global third-quarter vehicle sales finished at 17.95 million units, 6.3% ahead of like-2009, compared with 14.4% in the second quarter and 27.1% in the first quarter. The downward trend continues to point to single-digit growth in the fourth quarter.

World vehicle sales through the first nine months now stand at 55.4 million units, up 15.7% from like-2009.

jsousanis@wardsauto.com