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U.S. Auto Sales Heat Up for Most Manufacturers

After a month-over-month decline in U.S. auto sales, many automakers switched gears and boosted revenues in July—to the collective tune of 5%.

The uptick in July automotive sales was welcome news for several manufacturers, particularly considering industry-wide sales were down in June. Among the beneficiaries of consumers’ willingness to spend: Nissan, up 28%; Volkswagen, 13.4%; Subaru, up 11%; BMW, up 10.1% (U.S. only); Hyundai Motor Co., up 6%; Chrysler, Ford, and GM each growing sales by 5%.

What’s more, the majority of these manufacturers experienced double-digit sales gains in a year-over-year comparison, July 2010–July 2009 increases as high as 21%. Industry estimates put the total number of cars and light trucks sold to 1 million units.

For GM, July’s performance—on a year-over-year basis—was especially palpable when viewed via the prism of its four “core” brands: Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac. According to Don Johnson, vice president, U.S. sales operations, revenues among the core four increased by a combined 25% to 199,432 units. Buick and Cadillac brands each sold more than twice as many vehicles in July, compared with the same month a year ago, Johnson noted. In fact, July marks the 10th straight month in which total and retail sales for GM’s brands increased year-over-year.

“When we say we want to design, build and sell the world’s best vehicles, we’re not talking about just one vehicle, one brand, or one month,” Johnson explained. “Our July results again reflect that each of our brands has contributed significantly to our gains.”

New vehicles also helped Ford accelerate sales growth. According to Ken Czubay, Ford’s vice president, U.S. marketing, sales and service, Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury dealers delivered 166,092 new vehicles in July. Year-to-date sales totaled 1.12 million, up 24%, with growth across Ford’s full family of cars (up 21%), utilities (up 19%) and trucks (up 32%).

“Customers are rewarding Ford for providing the performance they want and the fuel economy they need,” Czubay said. “New class-leading powertrains are the ‘secret weapon’ in every new product we are bringing to market.”

The Ford Fiesta, which offers 40 miles per gallon EPA highway fuel economy, eclipsed 3,000 sales in its second month in America and has been well-received by California customers, Czubay noted. Additionally, sales for the 2011 F-Series Super Duty were 63% higher than a year ago, capturing more than 50% of the heavy duty pickup segment. Lastly, retail sales for the Mustang were 43% higher than a year ago.

GROWTH INTERRUPTED

On the flip side, several nameplates experienced minor month-over-month declines in July. Toyota reported sales were down 3% during the month, with revenues at Honda off 2%. This represents somewhat of an improvement, given Toyota and Honda experienced declines of 14% and 9%, respectively, in June. Some auto industry analysts say Toyota and Honda were beneficiaries of last year’s “Cash for Clunkers” program, which spurred demand for smaller vehicles. That push, industry watchers say, has not been matched this year.
 

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Automotive  •  Industry Trends & Happenings

 

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