Japanese automakers Toyota Motor and Nissan Group posted U.S. sales increases in September, while Honda sales were flat, despite projections of an overall industry decline for the month.
Toyota's sales rose 1.5% for the month to 197,260 vehicles, as the company's namesake Toyota brand rose 1.4% and its luxury Lexus brand increased 2%.
American Honda sold 133,655 units in September, just 95 fewer than it sold a year earlier. The namesake Honda brand recorded a 1.5% increase, while the Acura luxury brand fell 12.9%.
Nissan Group posted a surprisingly strong month for U.S. sales in September, recording 4.9% growth compared to a year earlier after several forecasts of sales declines.
The Japanese automaker sold 127,797 vehicles in the U.S. market, including 4.3% growth for its namesake Nissan brand and 11.7% growth for its luxury Infiniti brand. Discounts might have helped, too. Nissan incentives rose 12.1% in September, compared to a year earlier, to $3,896 per vehicle, according to TrueCar.
Analysts at Edmunds.com, Kelley Blue Book and TrueCar had projected Nissan sales declines of 2.9%, 2.3% and 0.6% for the month.
They had projected Toyota sales increases of 1.7%, 0.3% and 0.3%, respectively. Edmunds.com and Kelley Blue Book projected Honda sales declines of 0.6%, while TrueCar projected an increase of 0.9%.
The same analysts had projected an overall industry sales decrease of 1.7%, 2% and 2.3%.
German automaker Volkswagen's namesake brand struggled again, recording a 7.8% decline to 24,112 units. Its luxury Audi brand gained 1.6% to 17,617 vehicles.
Auto sales have plateaued near 2015's record pace of 17.5 million units per year.
With gas prices steady at slightly more than $2-per-gallon nationally, consumers are flocking to bigger, more profitable vehicles and ditching small cars. For Nissan, that translated into a 20% increase in sales of crossovers, sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks.
The Murano crossover, for example, soared 45.9% to 7,536 units. The Rogue crossover increased 5.6% to 26,459 vehicles, making it the automaker's most popular vehicle for the month.
It was a similar story at Toyota, where sales of Toyota brand crossovers, pickups and SUVs rose 11.5% and Toyota brand cars fell 9.2%.
Exemplifying the shift away from fuel-sipping cars: The vaunted Prius hybrid suffered a 22.6% sales decline for the month to 12,474 vehicles. But the Highlander SUV rose 21.3%, outselling the Prius with a total of 12,937 units
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.