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U.S. Light-Vehicle Sales Soften Only Slightly due to Lower Fleets in July

U.S. Light-Vehicle Sales Soften Only Slightly due to Lower Fleets in July

By Jeff Youngs, August 03, 2012
Car and light-truck sales in the U.S. reached 1.152 million units in July, which is an increase of 18% from July last year on a selling-day-adjusted basis.* That translates to a 14.1 million-unit seasonally adjusted annual selling rate (SAAR), and is slightly lower than June's 14.3 million SAAR (recently adjusted with the revised U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) seasonal factors), but is much stronger than the 12.2 million-unit pace in July 2011, according to data collected and analyzed by J.D. Power's Power Information Network(R) (PIN) with LMC Automotive.**

There were two fewer selling days in July this year (24) vs. last year (26), which means that Detroit-based Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. actually posted gains from a year ago on a selling-day-adjusted basis, as reduced fleet deliveries in the month impacted their total sales performance.

When adjusted for fewer selling days this July, Ford's total sales were up 4.2% from a year ago and the Ford brand posted a 4.5% gain, but Lincoln's deliveries still dipped by 3.3%. Car sales were stronger than a year ago. Fusion sales set a July record; Focus sales were up in double digits and Explorer sales were the best since July 2006, according to Ford. F-Series, which remains the best-selling model line in the U.S. market, posted an 8.8% sales increase on a selling-day-adjusted basis. The Ford brand was the highest-volume brand in the U.S. market in July.

GM's sales were stable in July, edging up 1.4% when adjusted for fewer selling days. Cadillac was the star in GM's stable with strong sales for CTS, Escalade, SRX and the all-new XTS. The luxury division's sales rose nearly 31% from a year ago. Flagship brand Chevrolet saw sales inch up by 1%, with double-digit increases for Impala and a number of trucks, including Avalanche, Equinox and Colorado.

Among all 11 multi-franchise automakers posting results, Honda Group posted the best monthly gain of more than 57%, while Fiat-Chrysler, Toyota and Volkswagen Groups continued to reap double-digit year-over-year gains as in the past few months. Toyota's sales rose by more than one-third on a selling-rate-adjusted basis. Germany's Volkswagen Group also posted a double-digit gain as did Fiat-Chrysler. Hampered by some new-model inventory shortages, Hyundai and Kia brands posted smaller gains than usual.

Honda Leads Year-Over-Year Gains in July
Honda Group's sales advanced by more than one-half (+57%) from last year due to the strength of new-model sales and a rebuilt inventory after shortages following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Honda brand's Accord, CR-V and Civic sales soared as did deliveries for the Odyssey midsize van--more than double year-ago sales totals. Ridgeline sales also climbed in triple digits. Acura sales also surged with RDX sales more than double last year's count.

Toyota Group's sales are back on track with deliveries up by more than 36%. Camry sales came in at just under 30,000 units in July and Prius deliveries increased nearly 53% (does not include Prius C or Prius V models) from last year when there was a shortage due to the year-ago setbacks in Japan. Lexus posted a double-digit gain in July and Scion nearly doubled sales with a boost from the sporty tC and new FR-S sports car. Toyota was the second-best-selling brand in the U.S. market in July.

Nissan Group achieved a double-digit gain of nearly 26% in July. Its best-selling model, the Nissan Altima, and the new Rogue set July records. Infiniti posted its best sales in 7 years with sales of the G Sedan setting an all-time record for the month.

BMW Brand is Luxury Sales Leader in July
BMW Group's sales rose 12.6% with a major boost from Mini (+34.6%). The BMW brand posted a fractional decline on an unadjusted basis, but a 7.8% increase when the change is calculated on a selling-day basis. BMW was the month's luxury sales leader and was ahead of Mercedes-Benz by nearly 2,000 unit sales. Both of these brands outpaced Lexus, which reported a double-digit increase in July.

Daimler posted a 14.7% gain from a year ago with a boost from its smart brand, which sold twice as many vehicles as a year ago. Mercedes-Benz sales (without Sprinter) advanced by more than 10% from a year ago with strong performances from the C-, CL-, SL- and GL-Class models. Sprinter deliveries also were up by more than one-third.

VW Group Continues to Gain Share in U.S. Market
Volkswagen Group continues to make inroads in the U.S. auto market and reports that its July sales were the best for the month since 1973--rising by more than one-third (+36.2%). VW's Passat, which recently ranked highest in a tie with the Kia Optima in our 2012 APEAL Study's Midsize Car award segment, and Tiguan achieved July sales records.

Among the remaining automakers with multiple brands, Hyundai Group's sales were up more than 13.5% from a year ago, with the strongest gains from the Kia brand (+14.5%). Jaguar Land Rover sales also were up in double digits (+23.6%), helped by the new Land Rover Evoque, which ranked highest in this year's APEAL Study Entry Premium Crossover/SUV award segment.

Among the independents, Subaru posted stellar gains--sales were up by more than one-fourth with a boost from the Impreza, while Mazda and Suzuki sales were flat on a selling-day-adjusted basis and Mitsubishi sales were down in double digits from last year as they undergo their model lineup transition, according to Dave Cutting, senior manager of North American Forecasting at LMC Automotive.

*There were 24 selling days in July 2012 vs. 26 days in July 2011.

**J.D. Power and Associates and LMC Automotive have a strategic alliance to share data and produce sales forecasts based on J.D. Power's real-time transaction data collected by PIN, with analysis and intelligence from LMC Automotive.
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