July auto sales slip

GM and Ford miss expectations but still sell enough to keep the industry on pace for 14 million units sold this year.

By Kim Peterson Aug 1, 2012 11:54AM
Updated 8:30 p.m. ET

Car sales stumbled in July but were still surprisingly steady, given the weak consumer confidence in the shaky U.S. economy.

General Motors (GM) and Ford (F) couldn't beat their sales from a year earlier. Chrysler was the only Detroit automaker to post a gain. But their Japanese rivals surged, continuing to recover from last year's earthquake.

Post continues below.
Overall sales were enough to keep the industry on track to sell 14.09 million vehicles this year, according to industry tracking firm Autodata -- about what economists were expecting. That's up from a light-vehicle sales rate of 12.4 million units a year earlier.

GM missed expectations by selling only 201,237 vehicles in July, a drop of 6.4% from a year earlier. Analysts were expecting anywhere from a slight loss to a 2.1% gain. Sales to retail customers dropped 3%, but the automaker was hurt by a 41% drop in sales to rental fleet customers.

GM had estimated that rental sales would plunge in July because its planned deliveries took place earlier this year. The Cruze compact and the Malibu sedan weren't as popular in July and saw double-digit drops in sales from a year earlier. Still, GM's stock price essentially closed flat Wednesday at $19.66.

Ford sales fell 3.8% from a year earlier to 173,966, disappointing analysts who were expecting a very small gain. The company attributed the drop to a slowdown in rental sales, posting a 16% decline in fleet sales and a 2% gain in retail sales.

The Ford Fusion saw a 21% bump in sales to about 23,300 sold -- the best July ever for that car. Ford's share price closed unchanged at $9.19 Wednesday.

Sales were propped up in July by a change of heart on the part of auto lenders, who were willing to work with buyers with lower credit scores, Reuters reported. The improved financing helped buyers who previously had been shut out of the auto market.

Sales at Chrysler rose 13% to 126,089, beating the forecast by Edmunds but slightly missing estimates from Barclays Capital and RBC Capital Markets, Reuters reported. Buyers had strong interest in the Ram pickup and the Chrysler 200 sedan.

Here's how the other automakers fared in July:

Units sold: 164,898
Change from a year earlier: 26.1% gain
Of note: Edmunds expected to see a 30% increase in sales. Shares of Toyota's ADRs closed essentially flat at $76.71.

Units sold: 98,341
Change from a year earlier: 16.2% gain
Of note: Big push for the Infiniti luxury line, which saw sales rise 57%.

Units sold: 62,021
Change from a year earlier: 4.1% gain
Of note: Sales would have been better, but there were ongoing shortages of the Accent, Elanta and Sonata models.

Units sold: 37,014
Change from a year earlier: 27.3% gain
Of note: Sales were helped by big incentives. Volkswagen was offering zero percent financing on most 2012 models, according to The Associated Press.

Aug 1, 2012 1:10PM

When the interstate highway sytem was started to be built back in the mid fifties, 98% of the cars on American highways were made in Detroit. 

Fords, Mercurys, Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles, Desoto,  Edsels,Dodge,Chrysler,Plymouth,Lincoln,Cadillac,Imperial,Buick,Studebaker,Nash,Rambler,and others.

Now look....Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mazda, Hyundai, Kia, Suzuki, Volvo, Volkswagon,

I'm not arguing for or against......just sayin'....it's sad.

Aug 1, 2012 1:41PM

They must be kidding,

   In this putrid economy I can not figure out for the life of me who would even think of taking on the costs of buying a car right now. Every working person has to be looking over their shoulder waiting nervously for the pink slip or the call into the corner office to tell them their job is toast. And the auto makers are wondering why so few people are pulling the trigger on a car purchase? There are so many things broken on my twelve year old sled that it's not even funny but replacing it with a new car and the usual 6 or 7 year 'book of the month club' loan is absolutely out of the question.

   The other day I was in the dollar store and a lady tapped me on the shoulder and said; "Excuse me sir but you have something hanging behind you." I looked back and there was a foot long piece of duct tape hanging off my a**, which apparently came off my lovely car seat. Hell, if it weren't for big rolls of duct tape I wouldn't even have a car interior. Maybe before I croak I can get some kind of used chariot that will be a step up from the smoking death trap bomb that I currently creak around in.

Peace to all

Aug 1, 2012 2:05PM
I know how to fix this problem...refinance your house, take the equity and buy a new car (heck take a vacation too) and then wait for the government to bailout your mortgage...you then get the best of all worlds. Also don;t worry about paying your student loan either, the bailout is coming for that too and then you can get on food stamps...is this a perfect world or what?
Aug 1, 2012 3:45PM
All I recall after Obama was elected was a black women in Chicago stating that she would now get a new car and wouldnt have to pay for it....well i guess we all paid for it didnt we.
Aug 1, 2012 2:06PM

It would be nice if we could buy a new vehicle. But the cost to replace my 9 year old F450 truck with a new one is just too high; my income didn't go up to match the cost increases in those 9 years. Now mandatory this and mandatory that by the government are gonna make it harder to find extra spending money in our lives. But thought the 'bailout' saved us all? Another crappy bailout looming?

Aug 1, 2012 2:21PM
I buy a new car every 9-10 years.
Aug 1, 2012 4:09PM

I thought about a new car this year, but no way. I'll just keep on driving my old ones, a 1997 Ford truck and a 02  Buick because the repairs are cheaper than the payments and that is a fact.

Aug 1, 2012 4:15PM

I've never had a new car, I don't expect that I ever will.  For now, I'm just trying to keep my 12 year old truck running until my daughter is out of college and the economy starts to recover.


Aug 2, 2012 10:32AM
See, this article is a good example of bad reporting. Why not point out  there being two fewer selling days in July of this year versus July of last year and both Ford and GM saw daily sales increases over last year. Two more days and that number would not be in the red. 

On a side note, why in the world do people continue to buy Toyotas? Do you like driving a sleeping pill on four wheels? Maybe thats the real unintended acceleration problem... Toyotas are SO boring the drivers all fell asleep.
Aug 2, 2012 11:12AM
Dear God in heaven, I do not know why I am surprised by ignorant post on things like this but let me point out that people like Mr. Soul who salivate at the thought of GM "tanking" should be kicked out of the country. This "hate GM" bandwagon that the republicans are all riding on right now is not just stupid, its also very, very shortsighted. Heres a few facts that you will not see on FOX News:

Bush was supporting the GM bailout and he would never let GM "tank" and for that I give him credit. He knew how vital it was to save.

The Volt program that you all hate was started in 2007. Obama was NOT president. And yes a gun rack will fit in a Volt Mr Gingrich.

Volt sales are up 277% & its a big hit in Europe even with the horrible sales in the EU at the moment. Sorry to disappoint.

GM is a bright spot in international trade with China. GM China sales are up 12% this year and GM sold 213,495 cars in China in June alone. Compare that with the numbers above!

Between 1 in 12 to 1 in 14 peoples jobs are tied to the domestic auto industry. Now just imagine if it "tanked".

GM paid back 8.1 Billion of its loan last year alone and is making huge profits even with European auto sales down over 40%.

Lastly, GM is an American company and has been a vital part of this countries success, especially during the industrial revolution. There is no denying GM has made some huge mistakes but beating them when they were down is one thing, wanting them to fail when they are proving to be a success story is quite another. If you are American, why in Gods name would you want to see a company thats so deeply entrenched in Americas history and value just simply go away – just because you hate the current American president. Just think about it for a second before you spout off ignorant statements. 
Aug 1, 2012 4:36PM

I hope that Government Motors tanks and has to go through complete reorganization without taxpayer bailouts. 

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