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US car sales continued to slow in June

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US car sales continued to ebb in June, marking the sixth straight monthly decline, even as appetite for larger SUVs and light trucks persisted, according to industry figures released Monday.

[WASHINGTON] US car sales continued to ebb in June, marking the sixth straight monthly decline, even as appetite for larger SUVs and light trucks persisted, according to industry figures released Monday.

Industry-wide, sales for the month dropped three per cent from the prior month, and compared to June of last year, according to Autodata figures.

The sales pace amounted to an annual rate of 16.51 million units, seasonally adjusted, down from 16.8 million at this time last year.

"June sales numbers reaffirm we're in what we call a post-peak phase," Michelle Krebs, executive analyst at Autotrader, told reporters.

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"We still think the market's on track for a pretty strong year but certainly below the past." Sales in 2016 were a record 17.55 million.

General Motors, the country's largest automaker, and Ford reported total sales fell about five per cent for the month, with GM down for the second month in a row.

The US division of Fiat Chrysler fell 7.4 per cent for the month. The shifting composition of the market was again clear: midsize vehicle sales fell 18 per cent, and compact cars dropped 6 per cent, said Alec Gutierrez of Kelley Blue Book.

But full-size pickups gained 4 per cent and SUVs and crossover vehicles rose as much as 10 per cent, Mr Gutierrez told reporters.

GM said sales of SUVs and crossovers skyrocketed by 22 per cent, with the Chevrolet Equinox gaining 36 per cent and the Traverse SUV up a stunning 71 per cent for the month.

Sales 'cooled off'

Toyota said its luxury Lexus brand fell 5.4 per cent in June, but was boosted by the SUV segment.

"The auto industry has cooled off compared to last year's record-breaking pace," Jack Hollis, general manager of the Toyota brand, said in a statement.

Still, Mr Gutierrez said with low unemployment, high consumer confidence and equities markets performing well, the shape of the economy pointed to continued strong sales.

Ms Krebs also said automakers were showing "discipline", easing away from leasing, sub-prime lending, discounts and incentives to boost sales.

"The financial houses of the automakers are in pretty good shape," she said.

"We don't see any kind of crazy imbalances."

Japanese automakers eked out sales increases, with Toyota rebounding to post a monthly gain of 2.1 per cent, though that still was below the pace of last year.

Nissan also bucked the trend, rising 2.1 per cent while Honda gained 0.8 per cent over June 2016.

German auto giant Volkswagen, which earlier this year announced the start of a major push into the US market as it emerges from a global emissions scandal, continued to see strong sales, gaining 15 per cent for the month.

Volume remained small, however, with just over 27,000 VWs sold.

Meanwhile, electric automaker Tesla sold 3,900 cars for the month, according to Autodata.

The company, which markets its battery-powered cars directly to consumers, also announced quarterly sales on Monday of 22,000 vehicles, up 53 per cent over the same period last year. It expects sales to ramp up faster now that it has addressed a backlog in the production of batteries.

The company said it would begin production of the moderately-priced Model 3 this week, with the first deliveries set for July 28.

AFP

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