July auto sales good, but not that good

An important estimate of sales based on July results was trimmed.

By Charley Blaine Aug 4, 2010 7:49PM
On Tuesday, automakers reported July sales. Looking at the numbers early in the day suggested an OK month, not a terrific month.

But Autodata, the folks who translate the monthly numbers into an annualized sales rate, put the rate at 11.98 million units. That would have been the best rate since August 2009 during the Cash for Clunkers program -- and counter to the trends suggesting the economy has been slowing.

But the market research firm cautioned that the estimate could change because they didn't yet have the actual adjustment factors for July from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

When the adjustment factors became available today and Autodata redid its numbers, the July estimate dropped to an annualized 11.54 million units. That was less than the 11.9-million rate that most analysts had expected.

So, July was an OK month: better than June's 11.17-million rate but not as good as the 11.6-million-unit rate for May or March's 11.73-million-unit rate.

The new July sales rate is more in keeping with an economy whose growth is slowing. But the new estimate offers a snapshot of an economy that's not falling apart.

Some additional notes:

Imported vehicles had their best month since March, with imported trucks and SUVs having their best month since January. That would be before Toyota Motor (TM) ran into the buzz saw of recall problems.

The sales rate for domestic autos -- 3.7 million units -- was the lowest since October. The sales rate for domestic trucks and SUVs was the second-highest since July 2009.

Auto sales over the last year 
Month

Total * 

Cars* 

Trucks* 
Jul '10 

11.54

5.63

5.91
Jun '10

11.17

5.52

5.65
May '10

11.64

5.68

5.96
Apr. '10

11.26

5.73

5.53
Mar. '10

11.73

6.06

5.67
Feb. '10

10.53

5.58

4.95
Jan. '10

10.75

5.68

5.06
Dec. '09

11.14

5.94

5.20
Nov. '09

10.86

5.66

5.20
Oct. '09

10.43

5.46

4.97
Sep. '09

9.38

5.08

4.30
Aug. '09

14.17

8.04

6.13
Jul. '09

11.29

6.18

5.11
* Seasonally adjusted annual sales rate. Source: Autodata
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