New car sales for July: Winners and losers

2015 Nissan Murano

Fiat Chrysler, GM see SAAR hitting 17.4 million or more

Robust demand for trucks and crossovers helped Nissan Motor Co., General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler post higher U.S. sales in July, setting the stage for what could be a banner month for automakers.

All four companies exceeded analysts’ expectations for July volume.

Nissan Group’s U.S. deliveries rose 7.8 percent to 130,872 — setting a July record — on strong sales of SUVs and crossovers. The Nissan division set a July record with volume of 120,439, an increase of 6.7 percent. Crossover, truck and SUV volume at the Nissan brand set a July record, up 22 percent. The Murano and Altima also set sales records for the month, Nissan said today.

At Infiniti, sales rose 22 percent to 10,433.

General Motors’ July volume climbed 6.4 percent to 272,512 vehicles on a 14 percent rise in retail deliveries. Among GM’s four brands, only Cadillac posted a decline.

When other automakers release results later today, the industry’s sales tally is expected to climb 2.8 percent for the month, according to the average estimates from Kelley Blue Book,, TrueCar and LMC Automotive.

The seasonally adjusted sales rate is projected to come in at 17.2 million, on par with June’s 17.16 million and above the pace of 16.51 million set in July 2014.

But the sales and SAAR projections may turn out to be too low based on today’s early results.

GM today pegged the July SAAR at 17.6 million and Fiat Chrysler projected the SAAR will hit 17.4 million.

“The second half of 2015 is off to a great start, with industry sales above expectations,” said Kurt McNeil, GM’s U.S. vice president of sales operations.

Ford Motor said its sales rose 5 percent, boosted by a 21 percent gain at Lincoln. Volume at the Ford Division advanced 4.3 percent.

Fiat Chrysler’s U.S. sales, aided by another strong showing by the Jeep brand, rose 6.2 percent to 178,027 vehicles in July, extending the company’s streak to 64 consecutive months.

Jeep deliveries jumped 23 percent to 73,216, a July record. Sales rose 1.2 percent at Ram, FCA said today, while volume advanced 10 at the Chrysler brand. Sales slipped 13 percent at Dodge and 15 percent at Fiat.

FCA’s overall light-truck sales and overall car sales both rose 6 percent last month.

Photo: 2015 Lincoln MKC

According to 11 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg, July sales are forecast to rise 4.7 percent at Honda and 3.6 percent at Volkswagen. Analysts saw smaller gains of 1.8 percent at Ford and 0.6 percent at General Motors.

Among major automakers, only Toyota is forecast to post a loss — a small one — of 0.1 percent.

Light trucks and crossovers are expected to continue dominating vehicle mix across the industry as gasoline prices remain low and a favorable credit environment makes it easier for consumers to purchase larger vehicles.

The shift to light trucks continues to drive up transaction prices, as well.

“The industry continues to outperform prior-year levels with respect to retail sales and transaction prices,” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of the global automotive practice at J.D. Power. “The average new-vehicle retail transaction price so far in July is $29,673, on pace to achieve a new record for the month.”

In some parts of the Midwest and South, the price of unleaded gasoline has dropped below $2 a gallon.

AAA said last week that most U.S. drivers paid the lowest price for a gallon of gasoline in July since 2009 and saved 82 cents per gallon at the pump compared with July 2014.

U.S. light-vehicle deliveries have climbed 4.4 percent through June, with light truck demand up 10.3 percent and car deliveries down 1.7 percent.

Fueled by favorable financing terms, notably extended loans, higher leasing penetration, and steady job and economic growth, analysts say U.S. deliveries remain on pace to reach 17 million for all 2015. It would mark the sixth consecutive year that sales have increased since hitting bottom at 10.43 million in 2009.

“Light-vehicle sales continue to be on track after June ended right at expectations, continuing a great run for auto sales,” said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive. “The industry has found its groove and consumers continue to respond and make purchases, replacing their aging or off-lease vehicles.”

Many automakers continued or launched summer clearance deals or other promotions in July.

TrueCar estimates the average industry incentive fell 1.2 percent to $2,849 in July from a year earlier. The biggest spenders on incentives, TrueCar estimates, last month were General Motors ($3,983); Fiat Chrysler ($3,413); Nissan ($3,168); Volkswagen Group ($3,138) Ford ($2,678); Hyundai ($2,546); Kia ($2,490); Toyota ($2,034) and Honda ($1,935).

The article “Crossovers, trucks drive Nissan, GM, Ford, FCA to gains” first appeared at Automotive News.

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