Mixed bag for June auto sales

Sales were again down for Toyota and Honda, but that didn't translate into the expected gains for GM.

By Kim Peterson Jul 1, 2011 4:11PM
Image: Couple shopping for car (© Don Mason/Blend Images/Corbis)When a massive earthquake in Japan severely dents vehicle supply for the rest of the world, you'd expect brand-switching from even diehard Japanese car fans, right?

Well, not really. General Motors (GM) didn't see as strong an influx of new customers as was expected for June. Toyota (TM) and Honda (HMC) owners didn't flock to other brands like analysts thought they would.

As a result, GM's 10 sales gain for the month failed to meet sales expectations of about 18% from analysts. Ford (F) fared a little better, with its 14% gain beating the 12% expected, Bloomberg reports.

So who's taking all the share from Toyota and Honda, which each saw deliveries drop 21%? That's a little unclear. Many buyers who can't find their dream car in stock are simply putting off purchases until supply levels recover.

On top of that, skyrocketing gas prices shunted more buyers to the sidelines. Then there's the whole 9.1% unemployment thing.

Bottom line? Business is still better -- the June gains were nothing to sneeze at for GM and Ford -- but not as strong as many had hoped for at this point. Potential buyers are simply waiting things out.

The percentage of consumers planning to buy a new car in six months has plunged to 3.1% -- the lowest since December, Bloomberg reports.

Check out this video interview with an Edmunds.com analyst about how loyalty is still strong among Honda and Toyota buyers -- leading them to wait on purchases.

Post continues after video:
"Even though the economic news remains pretty mixed, [and] even though the Japanese competitors have lower-than-normal levels of inventory, there's still this high pent-up demand that's backstopping the industry," the head of GM's U.S. sales operation said, according to AutoWeek.

And it's looking like June's seasonally adjusted annual sales rate will come in at about 12 million units. That's better than the 11.8 million seen in May, but still down from 13 million seen earlier this year.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, June light-vehicle sales came in at 11.45 million units, up from 11.17 million units a year earlier, according to Autodata. That's worse than the 11.8 million in May and far below the 13.1 million for March.

General Motors sold 215,358 vehicles in June, up 10.2% from a year earlier. Fleet sales were off 1% due to a planned drop in sales to car-rental companies, but retail sales rose 16%. GM shares closed up less than 1% to $30.60.Image: Car on stack of money (© Dynamic Graphics/Jupiterimages)

The Chevrolet Cruze was one of the brightest stars of the month for GM, with total sales above 20,000 for the third-straight month. Compact crossovers were also a hit as customers looked for vehicles with improved gas mileage.

Ford sold 194,114 vehicles in June, a 14% gain from a year earlier. Two new small cars, the Fiesta and the Focus, are the fastest-turning models in dealer showrooms, Ford said, helping drive retail sales up 36% in California alone.

And truck sales were up across the board, with the F-Series truck the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. Those high truck sales could indicate some strength in the building and construction industries. Ford shares closed up about 1.5% to $14.

Chrysler stood out from the crowd with a 30% sales increase to 120,394 vehicles for the month -- the best June sales since 2007. The Jeep and Ram brands helped contribute to the total, with the new Jeep Grand Cherokee seeing sales soar 208%. The 2011 Ramp pickup saw a 35% sales jump.

The picture was not as pretty at Toyota, which saw a 24.1% drop in sales to 110,937 vehicles. But sales did move up over the last month, the company reported, and the selection is improving every day. Toyota shares closed up a little more than 1% to $83.41.

Honda's drop was 24.3% in June, with sales of just 83,892 vehicles. The company said reduced supply really hurt its results. Honda shares closed up nearly 1% to $38.98.

Nissan saw an 11.4% increase to 71,941 vehicles in June. And sales of the all-electric Nissan Leaf hit a new high of 1,708 units delivered for the month, the company said.

Kia Motors hit an all-time record for June with 45,044 vehicles -- a 41.2% increase from a year earlier. The company attributed some of the gain to strong performances from the Sorento crossover, the Soul passenger car and the Optima midsize sedan.

i would like to think that the recent surge in the stock market this week will get auto sales going on a positive note for the second half of this year. the economy is going to be the biggest challenge for the auto sales, as far as i am concerned.
Jul 1, 2011 6:34PM
I ordered my Prius in January.  Because it was a Prius five with the advanced technology package, it was not being built until March.  That is when the earthquake hit.  I finally got it in June.  If you want a Prius you wait.
Jul 1, 2011 5:25PM
I didn't think anyone bought a Chrysler product unless they were forced to.
Jul 1, 2011 6:58PM
The recycled tin, plastic and other products are not a very good looking vehicle(s).
So called small trucks are at least as large as a 1 and a half ton dual wheel truck of past years.
Why people crowd the roads with vans is senseless to me. I was foolish in owning one van and was hard to make a trade to get rid of it. Ah the good old days when the tail pipes were white exhausting. Today its carbon and acid.
Anyone tried to buy a 2011 Chrysler 300C AWD lately?  I've been waiting since the end of May and find Chrysler's performance intolerable.  The latest event was the worst.  After postponing the build to June 28th, I was told on Thursday that Chrysler had cancelled the order altogether.  The local sales manager had already spent weeks trying to find one at another dealer, with no success, so we placed my name on their pending order with the factory (in Canada, not Detroit).  It was given top priority, no supplier problems, etc.  The factory just could not keep up with demand so they missed the original scheduled build date, missed my first scheduled date and finally cancelled the order.  What a way to run a car company!!!  I hope this is not the sign of future things to come.  For now they have taken all the joy out of buying a new car, especially since I traded in my new BMW due to my wife's arthritis (that's another story).
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