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US sales soften with 14 per cent June rise

Top dog: Sales of Ford's top-selling F-150 pick-up rose 29 per cent last month.

Consumer confidence weighs on US sales as post-GFC growth tapers off in June

General News logo6 Jul 2010

CAR company executives and industry analysts in the United States are predicting a long and possibly volatile recovery period from the global economic crisis after new-vehicle sales rose a softer-than-expected 14 per cent last month, to 983,821 units.

Considered an unremarkable result when consumer confidence was at close to a 30-year low at the same point last year, the US car industry’s sales performance last month included lower gains from the biggest-selling car-makers than those experienced earlier this year.

GM recorded 194,716 sales for the month to again take market honours, but its 11 per cent rise over June 2009 – a month in which it was still in Chapter 11 bankruptcy – was below the industry average and its second-smallest monthly gain for the year.

The company was, however, quick to point out that its four core brands in the ‘New GM’ era – that is, Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac – experienced a combined sales increase of 36 per cent.

Ford, meanwhile, failed in its bid to record a seventh successive monthly increase of more than 20 per cent, collecting a 13 per cent rise in June sales with 175,690 units.

In a month in which it announced it was axing its 72-year-old Mercury brand later this year, Ford again found its F-Series pick-up truck forming the backbone of its sales performance, up 29 per cent, with smaller-volume passenger cars such as Taurus chipping in (up 191 per cent, to 6607).

Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brand sales were up a combined 15 per cent for the month, while Volvo was down 29 per cent.

80 center imageLeft:Ford Taurus SHO.

Toyota, in third place, experienced only a 6.8 per cent increase in June, to 140,604 sales, with Toyota brand sales up 7.4 per cent (to 123,272) and Lexus climbing just 2.7 per cent (to 17,332).

While a handful of niche brands such as Porsche (2141 units, up 137 per cent), Jaguar Land Rover (4408, up 53 per cent) and Maserati (180 units, up 61 per cent) found form, Chrysler was again the standout improver among the high-volume manufacturers with a 35 per cent rise in sales for the month, to 92,482.

“This 35 per cent increase in year-over-year sales shows that we continue to build on our sales momentum,” said Chrysler Group’s lead executive for US sales, Fred Diaz, who said further growth was anticipated in July now that dealer deliveries of the all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee were ramping up.

The US market is up 17 per cent overall for the first half of trading this calendar year, to 5.615 million, with GM the only Detroit car-maker to have cracked a million units YTD, on 1,077,601.

GM’s 14 per cent growth rate YTD is, however, only about half that of its arch-rival Ford, which despite last month’s blip is still 27 per cent ahead after the first six months (to 981,352 units), thanks to a 34 per cent rise YTD for the F-Series – the biggest-selling vehicle in the US and the only one to have surpassed 200,000 sales in the first half of 2010 (currently at 240,345).

Toyota’s sales have climbed 10 per cent YTD, to 846,542, prompting Toyota Motor Sales USA president Jim Lentz to comment: “Toyota performed well during the first half of the year, despite a difficult economic environment.

“Although the entire automotive industry struggled in June as weakening consumer confidence weighed on sales, Toyota maintains its leadership position as the number one retail brand in the industry year-to-date.”

Honda holds down fourth position YTD on 593,909 sales, up 12 per cent, while Chrysler has also climbed 12 per cent to be in fifth position, with 527,219 sales.

The seasonally adjusted annual sales rate for the US car industry – compiled by Bloomberg and based on the average of eight analysts’ estimates – was 11.1 million in June, although some car companies are predicting a better result come December 31.

GM’s official forecast, for example, remains at between 11.3 and 11.8 million sales.

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