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U.S. Automotive Sales Up More Than 6% in July

Despite uncertainty about the economy, the majority of automotive manufacturers enjoyed healthy sales increases last month—some by high double-digits.

Robust sales activity across various categories of automobiles--including fuel-efficient vehicles, mid-size sedans, light trucks, and even premium cars--helped push revenues 6-plus percent higher in July. 

Following is a snapshot of how some automotive manufacturers fared during the month of July:

Audi: +17%
BMW: +11.7%
Chrysler: +20.1%
Ford: 9%
GM: 8%
Honda: -25.6%
Hyundai: +10%
Mazda: +0.2%
Mercedes Benz: +16.7%
Nissan: +2.7%
Toyota: -19.7%
Volkswagen: +21.7%

Gains were particularly strong for GM, which saw continued strong demand for its lineup of fuel-efficient cars and crossovers, as well as full-size pickup trucks. Total sales of the Chevrolet Cruze in July were above 20,000 for the fourth-straight month, while the 32-miles-per-gallon highway-rated GMC Terrain and Chevrolet Equinox compact crossovers saw a combined retail sales increase of 73 percent during the month. Total sales for GM’s full-size pickups–Chevrolet Silverado and Avalanche, and GMC Sierra, increased 2 percent from June, while retail sales–those to individuals–rose 5 percent compared to last month.

“Sales of our fuel-efficient cars like the Chevrolet Cruze and our crossovers remain strong, and we’re now also seeing the seasonal lift in full-size pickups that we expected,” said Don Johnson, vice president, U.S. sales operations.

GM’s sales growth (percentage-wise) was right on par with cross-town rival Ford Motor Co., which saw revenues climb 9 percent versus a year ago. According to Ken Czubay, Ford’s vice president, U.S. marketing, sales and service, this was driven by 13 percent higher Ford brand sales and 40 percent higher sales for Lincoln.

In particular, Fiesta sales totaled 5,296, up 58 percent, and Fusion sales were 19,318–a record for the month of July. Fusion has set a monthly sales record in each of the last 11 months. Meanwhile, Ford’s best-selling utility is the Escape, which set an all-time monthly sales record of 24,411 models. Year-to-date, Escape sales totaled 147,018, up 29 percent. Explorer sales totaled 9,897, up 108 percent versus a year ago, and Edge set a July record with sales totaling 9,731 models, up 4 percent.

“We are encouraged to see the stronger pace of auto sales, along with continued customer demand for our fuel-efficient cars, utilities and trucks,” Czubay said.

Hyundai Motor America also came up big in July, reporting a 10-percent increase in sales compared with the same period a year ago. According to Dave Zuchowski, Hyundai Motor America’s executive vice president of national sales, this represents an all-time sales record for both the month of July and the first seven months of the year for Hyundai, breaking the marks set last year. This also marks the seventh consecutive month that Hyundai has set an all-time monthly sales record.

“Consumer demand continues to be robust across the board for Hyundai, particularly with our imposing sedan line-up of Accent, Elantra, and Sonata Hybrid all delivering on our 40 MPG promise,” Zuchowski said. “Accent sales are up an astounding 75 percent in the first full month of deliveries and our new sub-compact is expected to become the top selling nameplate at retail in its segment for July.”

Genesis’ sustained growth trajectory continued with July representing the 25th consecutive month of year-over-year sales increases with a lift of 53 percent over last July. Meanwhile, Equus—Hyundai’s premium luxury sedan—is up 37 percent versus June and set an all-time sales record. The U.S.-built Sonata and Santa Fe also saw increases of 17 and 15 percent, respectively.

PREMIUM CATEGORIES

Sales activity was also robust among premium models. Audi of America reported record July U.S. sales of 9,146 luxury vehicles, topping the previous record of 7,974 vehicles sold in July 2001. July 2011 also marked the seventh consecutive month of record-setting sales for the brand in the U.S. market. Year to date, Audi sales in the U.S. grew 15.6% to 65,055 luxury vehicles sold from January 2011 through July 2011.

Audi’s sales performance in July was led by significant consumer demand for the all-new 2012 A6 with 1,014 vehicles sold, a 64% increase over July 2010. In addition, sales of the 2012 Audi A7, introduced this spring, remained strong with 709 vehicles sold in July alone. In the ultra-performance category, sales of the Audi R8 supercar series climbed 57.7% with 82 vehicles sold in July. Year-to-date, R8 sales rose 128.1% with 682 vehicles sold in 2011. Sales of the sporty Audi TT model increased 7.2% from a year earlier with 178 vehicles sold in July, while TT sales year-to-date increased 15.2% to 1,221 vehicles sold. The western and the southern regions were the strongest gainers, with year-to-date sales in the south jumping 14% to 15,591 and in the west 11% to 16,460 vehicles sold.

Not to be outdone, the BMW Group in the U.S. (BMW and MINI combined) reported July sales of 26,120 vehicles, an increase of 11.7% from the 23,390 vehicles sold in the same month a year ago. Year-to-date, BMW Group sales are up 17% to 169,641 in the first seven months of 2011 compared to 144,975 in the same period in 2010.

“Despite the recent economic news, our BMW Group sales in July continue their good momentum,” said Jim O’Donnell, president and CEO, BMW of North America. “Particularly gratifying is the fact that the new 5 Series continues to attract current and new customers, our X3, X5 and X6 vehicles are doing great business, and overall MINI sales continue their excellent growth this year.”

Finally, Mercedes-Benz USA reported July sales of 21,065 vehicles, a 16.7% improvement over July 2010. It was also the company’s highest July volume since 2006. The highest volume performers for the month were the E- and C-Class model lines. The 9th generation E-Class led the pack with sales of 5,114 and the sporty C-Class, followed with sales of 4,554. The M-Class SUV finished third in volume with monthly sales of 2,778, up 40.8% over last July. Additionally, sales of the all-new SLK roadster were up 1,758.3%, and the all-new 2012 CLS-Class posted a 657% increase over July 2010. Sales of the full-sized GL-Class SUV were up 60.2% for the month as well.

Many automakers agree the sector faced several significant headwinds in the past several months. Nonetheless, analysts say the industry is poised to regain some of its lost momentum in the second half of the year, aided by higher supply and pent-up demand.

“There are people who put off vehicle purchases because of uncertainty about fuel prices, vehicle availability and the economy,” GM’s Johnson said. “As these conditions improve in the latter half of this year, many of these buyers will return to the market.”

GM’s 2011 U.S. industry forecast, originally announced in January, remains unchanged at 13 million to 13.5 million units, but the company expects total industry sales to end the year in the low end of this range.
 

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