Nissan, Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Hyundai-Kia and American Honda rode strong demand for trucks in posting solid sales gains in June as the U.S. auto industry rebounded from a May slump.
Industry volume rose 2.4 percent to 1.5 million new cars and light trucks — below most projections. And the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate came in at 16.68 million, below a consensus forecast of 17.2 million, and below the 17.01 million rate in June 2015 and May’s 17.46 million pace.
Nissan Motor Corp. — behind record crossover, truck and SUV deliveries — recorded a 13 percent rise. Fiat Chrysler extended its streak of monthly advances to 75, while Ford volume increased 6.4 percent. General Motors deliveries fell for the fourth time this year, down 1.6 percent, and Toyota Motor Sales volume slipped 5.6 percent, marking the company’s fourth monthly decline this year.
Automakers and analysts are counting on historically low interest rates, stable fuel prices, rising wages and near-full employment to counter some headwinds and continue driving strong auto sales in the second half of the year.
Light trucks, helped by improved fuel economy and low gasoline prices, continue to propel the U.S. market, which set a record in 2015.
“In spite of some severe stock market volatility in June, the American consumer stayed focus on buying new vehicles,” Reid Bigland, senior vice president of sales for FCA North America, said in a statement.
At the Nissan brand, volume rose 13 percent to 129,495 vehicles, setting a June record. Infiniti sales rose 11 percent to 11,058 cars and light trucks.
GM was dragged down by an 8.6 percent drop in deliveries at GMC and a 5.5 percent decline at Buick. Cadillac volume jumped 5.5 percent, while Chevrolet eked out a 0.1 percent sales gain.
The company again shrugged off the decline, pointing to efforts to boost residual values by cutting back on deliveries to daily rental fleets, rein in incentive spending and control inventory levels.
Ford rode another robust month for F-series trucks. F-series sales surged 29 percent to 70,937 trucks. Escape crossover deliveries gained 20 percent to 29,003 vehicles. Lincoln sales rose 5.8 percent to 8,809 vehicles.
FCA US, behind another record for Jeep and generous discounts, saw June deliveries rise 6.5 percent.
Jeep sales jumped 17 percent to 83,691 for a June record. Volume climbed 14 percent at the Ram brand and 3.1 percent at Dodge, but sales slipped 20 percent at the Chrysler brand and 19 percent at Fiat.
Fiat Chrysler’s average new-vehicle incentive in the U.S. rose 21 percent to $4,101 last month, compared with June 2015, TrueCar estimates.
American Honda Motor Co. reported sales of 138,715 for a year-over-year gain of 3.2 percent on record light truck volume for the month. Volume jumped 7.1 percent at the Honda division but slipped 27 percent at Acura.
At Kia Motors America, deliveries rose 16 percent to 62,572 vehicles — a June record. Hyundai also set a June sales record of 67,511 cars and light trucks, for a slight gain.
Sales at Volkswagen slid 22 percent to 23,809, extending the embattled brand’s losing streak to eight straight months. VW has been unable to sell new diesel models since September amid violations of U.S. emissions rules.
Audi of America notched its 66th-straight monthly U.S. sales record in June as deliveries rose 1 percent to 18,445 vehicles on a 29 percent jump in crossover sales. Among other luxury brands, volume rose 3.5 percent at Mercedes-Benz, 23 percent at Land Rover 125 percent at Jaguar and 41 percent at Volvo. At BMW, deliveries slipped for the seventh straight month, falling 10 percent in June to 28,855.
Subaru set a June sales record with volume of 46,598 vehicles, an increase of 5.1 percent and the 55th consecutive month the brand has generated year over year gains.
With increased availability of the Legacy and Outback, Subaru executives expect the brand to finish the year stronger than it performed in the first six months, when volume rose 2.6 percent to 279,458 cars and light trucks.
“We can be very happy with our half-year performance which will set us up well for the second half of 2016,” said Jeff Walters, senior vice president of sales for Subaru of America.
Among major automakers, the average incentive last month rose 8.6 percent to $3,116 from $2,871 in June 2016. BMW dangled the biggest spiffs while Subaru offered the lowest discounts, TrueCar estimates.
Through June, U.S. light-vehicle demand has risen 1.4 percent, though some analysts say prospects for another record year are diminishing amid signs of weakening job growth and Brexit-spooked financial markets.
“There certainly is a higher probability of having a slightly down year than there was a month ago,” Jeff Schuster, an analyst with research firm LMC Automotive, told Bloomberg News this week. “It’s no longer just a leveling off — it’s a potential contraction in the second half of the year.”
Before U.K. citizens voted a week ago to leave the European Union, RBC Capital Markets flipped from predicting 2016 U.S. sales would top last year’s record 17.5 million vehicles to forecasting a 1 percent drop. Bank of America Merrill Lynch lopped its estimate by a half-million vehicles.
The vote in the U.K. triggered a two-day global stock market rout — the kind of event that makes car shoppers less confident about their finances. U.S. equity markets have rebounded this week.
Some analysts also believe a rise in inventories of late-model, off-lease used vehicles could pull shoppers away from new cars and light trucks in coming months.
That rise – powered by an increase in leasing that began about three years ago – is expected to accelerate in the second half and continue for several years.
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