Auto sales were still strong in September (Ford).
Auto sales, a key driver of the U.S. economy this year, fell off in September by 4 percent to the lowest rate since April. But there is still plenty of good news in the numbers.

While overall sales were down 4.2 percent in the month, it is also true that there were peculiarities in the August and September numbers that skew the results. writer Jim Henry points out that automakers counted sales from August 1 to September 3 because of a quirk of the calendar, and September sales reporting only ran from Sept. 4 to September 30. There were only 23 selling days for dealers in September versus 25 last year, noted

The good news is that credit has become easier for consumers to get, and the average age of the American fleet in consumer driveways is still over 11 years. That means there is still a lot of aging metal in American driveways that needs to be replaced.

Ford and Chrysler both reported strong months, up 5.8 percent and 1 percent respectively, though GM posted a drop of 11 percent in sales. GM executives said the automaker lost some sales to a shortage of its all-new Chevy Silverado pickup truck and pointed to still-strong demand in the marketplace. Ford capitalized and posted a 9.8 percent increase in sales of its F-Series pickups.

A stronger home-building and remodeling market is driving sales of new pickups.

Toyota's sales dropped 4.3 percent, while Honda's fell 9.9 percent. Nissan's sales fell 5.5 percent. Hyundai reported an 8 percent drop in sales.

Automakers said some consumers appeared to be delaying their purchases. One reason could be that with Congress and the White House squabbling over the budget, Obamacare and the forthcoming debt-ceiling debate, there is creeping uncertainty about the impact of a government shutdown or prlonged stalemate on those political issues on the markets and economy as a whole.

"After consistently experiencing year-over-year sales gains in 2013, we definitely felt a market pull-back during the month of September," said Dave Zuchowski, executive vice president of national sales at Hyundai Motor America.

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