[NEW YORK] Automakers reported strong US sales in July, boosted by sport utility vehicles, as the industry benefited again from lower gasoline prices and a steadily improving US economy.
Overall sales rose 5.3 per cent from a year ago to 1.51 million vehicles in July, according to Autodata. That puts the annual rate of US auto sales at 17.55 million, according to Autodata, the third month in a row above 17 million cars, a torrid pace of sales for the industry.
"Right now the industry is genuinely vibrant, benefiting from robust consumer demand that is enabling automakers to pull back incentive spending," said John Krafcik, president of TrueCar, an automotive pricing and information service.
"Consumers are feeling more affluent, and with more disposable income to invest back into the economy, the auto sector is thriving." The hot market is translating into higher prices for cars. The average price of a car sold was US$33,453 in July 2015, up 2.6 per cent from July 2014, according to Kelley Blue Book.
SUVS ARE STRONG
General Motors, the biggest US automaker, said July sales surged six percent from a year ago to 272,512 vehicles behind a strong performance in pickup trucks, SUVs and some sedan lines.
"The second half of 2015 is off to a great start, with industry sales above expectations," said GM vice-president for sales Kurt McNeil.
Ford notched 4.9 per cent rise in sales to 222,731, a gain that included an 11 per cent rise in Ford SUVs.
Sales of SUVs have stayed strong with declining fuel prices. US gasoline prices stand at an average US$2.65 per gallon (3.78 liters), down more than 24 per cent from a year ago.
The sales figures from GM, Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Honda and Toyota were all higher than the increases projected by online car site Edmunds, which had given a bullish forecast on July after US automakers enjoyed a buoyant first half of 2015 thanks in part to lower gasoline prices.
Fiat Chrysler's July sales came in at 178,027 vehicles, up 6.2 per cent from the year-ago period and about 2,100 above the level projected by online car site Edmunds.
FCA said several brands under the Jeep line scored strong sales, including its flagship Jeep Grand Cherokee, which notched a five per cent rise.
FCA said sales were also strong for Chrysler 200, a midsized sedan. Sales in the Ram pickup truck line rose one per cent.
Toyota reported sales of 217,181 vehicles, up 0.6 per cent from a year ago, as Camry was its best-selling car in July. Lexus luxury utility vehicles revved almost 28 per cent higher and the Toyota Highlander gained more than 12 per cent. Takoma and Tundra pickup sales were up nearly 17 per cent.
"July auto sales showed no signs of slowdown for the industry," said Bill Fay, Toyota Division group vice president and general manager. "Led by Tacoma sales, the Toyota division light trucks posted a best-ever July." Honda sales rose 7.7 per cent to 146,324, with especially strong gains in its popular CR-V "crossover" vehicle. Sales of the Civic sedan rose by 3.7 per cent, while the Accord, another sedan, fell by 1.6 per cent.
Nissan sales rose 7.8 per cent to 130,872 units, missing the Edmunds forecast of 132,388. The Nissan Rogue SUV remained a strong seller, with a 50.9 per cent increase.