July auto sales best in 11 months

Sales of imports are strong. GM and Ford miss estimates, while Chrysler does better than expected. Big vehicles are selling well. Lack of Cash for Clunkers credit hurts Toyota and Honda.

By Charley Blaine Aug 3, 2010 1:39PM
Updated: 9 p.m. ET

Auto sales for July were the best in nearly a year, thanks to strength from import sales.

Sales for General Motors and Ford Motor (F) missed analyst estimates, although they were higher than a year ago. Ford shares dropped in response. Chrysler sales, up 5% from a year ago, were slightly ahead of estimates.

There was concern that sales weren't as stronger because of consumer reluctance to make big-ticket purchases in a weak economy.

Meanwhile, Toyota (TM) and Honda (HMC) both said their sales were lower because results from a year ago were boosted by the Cash for Clunkers program.

Yet, thanks to the imports, July sales ran at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of nearly 12 million units, slightly better than expected and and up 8% from June's 11.1 million units. It was also the best sales rate since August 2009's 14.1-million sales rate, which was elevated by the Cash for Clunkers program.

One surprising theme: Big vehicles were big sellers. Ford and Chrysler saw substantial gains in sales for their Explorer and Jeep brands. GM said its Silverado pickup sales were 34,664, up 25.5%. Sales of Toyota's Tundra pickup were up 40% to 9,201.

Hyundai (HYMTF), Nissan (NSANY), Kia (KIMTF) and Volkswagen (VLKAY) all had sales gains greater than 15%.

GM reported a 24.6% increase in July sales for its core brands -- Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC -- to 199,432 units, but its overall sales, including those of discontinued brands, were up 5.4% to 199,692 units. Analysts had expected a 10% gain.

Ford sales were 170,411 units, up 3.1% from a year ago. Edmunds.com had predicted a 13% gain. Results include 4,319 units for Volvo, down 33% from a year ago. Ford sold to China's Geely Holding Group this week for a reported $1.6 billion.

Ford shares were off 1.9% to $12.91 at 3:30 p.m. ET. Stocks had been flat before the Ford results were released but fell back quickly. The Dow Jones industrials ($INDU) were off 38 points to 10,636.

Chrysler sold 93,313 units, up 5% from a year ago and better than the Edmunds estimate of 3.9%.

Sales of Chrysler-branded vehicles were off 11%. Dodge-brand sales were flat. Jeep sales were up 19% to 26,466 units.

Toyota said sales were off 3.2% to 169,224 units. Auto sales were lower, probably because of last year's gains. Prius sales were off 29% to 14,102 units. Corolla sales fell 11% to 27,345 units. Camry sales, however, were little changed at 35,058 units.

Honda said it sold 112,437 autos and trucks, down 2% from a year ago, or 5.6% when adjusted for an extra selling day. Auto sales in its Honda division were off 9.7%, with Accord and Civic sales down 17.8% and 25.5%, respectively. Honda sales were very strong during the Cash for Clunkers program.

Nissan said sales rose 14.6% to 82,337 units in July, up from 71,847 units a year ago. Nissan Division sales rose 12.1% for the month, while sales of Infiniti vehicles were 37.6% higher.

Nissan's Rogue had sales of 10,963 units in July, up 61.9% over a year ago. The Murano crossover sales jumped 58% to 5,462 units. Nissan's truck and sport-utility-vehicle sales, including the Titan, Armada, Xterra, Pathfinder and Frontier, grew by double digits.

Meanwhile, Kia sales were up 20.7% to 35,419 units. Hyundai sales were up 19% to 54,107 units.

Daimler (DAI) reported a 5.5% sales gain to 18,608 units. Sales of its fuel-efficient Smart cars were off 61% from a year ago to 560 units. Mercedes-Benz sales were up 7% to 17,367.

Automaker sales for July 
Company 

July '10

July '09

Chg.
General Motors total

199,432

160,078

24.58%
General Motors core*

199,692

189,443

5.41%
Ford total 

170,411

165,279

3.11%
Ford less Volvo

166,092

158,838

4.57%
Chrysler 

93,313

88,900

4.96%
Toyota 

169,224

174,872

-3.23%
Honda

112,437

114,690

-1.96%
Nissan

82,337

71,847

14.60%
Hyundai

54,107

45,553

18.78%
Kia

35,419

29,345

20.70%
Mazda

20,732

19,032

8.93%
Daimler 

18,608

17,646

5.45%
Subaru 

21,601

21,839

9.82%
Volkswagen

21,051

27,143

17.10%
BMW

19,182

21,279

10.27%
Suzuki 

2,035

3,507

-44.34%
GM's core brands are Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and GMC

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