July 2011 Auto Sales

The stagnant economy and continuing supply difficulties for some key Japanese players made July a torpid month for new-car sales. Deliveries were up by only 1% versus 2010, compared to 7% in June. Stubbornly high unemployment may have kept individuals out of dealerships, and general economic anxiety -- highlighted by the debt-ceiling circus -- may have reduced buying by businesses, hurting pickup sales.

But things weren't equally bad for everyone. Again in July, the Japanese -- particularly Toyota and Honda, but also Infiniti and Subaru -- had fewer cars to sell. Their issues probably helped the domestics and the Koreans gain market share, but Chrysler (despite a healthy 20% increase) did drop behind Toyota, which retook the number three spot.

Supply issues eventually will be rectified, which will give the affected players a boost in the coming months. But the economy overall hardly looks ready to take off, so any pent-up demand that might exist could remain pent up for a while.

SALES RESULTS FOR JULY 2011, AND PERCENT CHANGE VERSUS JULY 2010

GENERAL MOTORS +8% (continuing nameplates only)
General Motors gained market share again in July, paced by GMC and Chevrolet, while Buick treaded water and Cadillac declined. Chevrolet might have done even better, but ran low on inventory of the Cruze, which by the end of the month had a 30-day supply, or about half the ideal level. Even so, the Cruze was the second-best-selling car in America. GM also sited lean supplies of the popular Chevy Equinox and GMC Terrain. Fleet volume increased at twice the rate of retail sales, and accounted for roughly 1 in 4 GM sales. GM characterized its incentives as in line with industry averages.

Chevrolet +7%
The Cruze had another huge month and the Equinox (+73%) also did well, as did the Traverse (+43%). On the down side, Impala sales were halved while the Malibu slipped only a bit (-5%). The Silverado fell back slightly (-5%), reflecting the downturn in commercial business.

Buick +0%
Gains for the Enclave (+53%) and the Regal (+107%) were matched by declines for the LaCrosse (-15%) and the Lucerne (-59%).

Cadillac -26%
Cadillac was down across the board, with the CTS, the SRX, and the Escalades all moving pretty much in sync.

GMC +37%
There was a considerable amount of fleet sales in GMC's mix, which probably explains the sudden popularity of the Canyon (+123%). But there was good news on the retail side as well, with sales of the Terrain to individual buyers up by two-thirds over last year (and up 93% overall), and Acadia retail sales up 33% (versus a total increase of 87%).

FORD MOTOR COMPANY +13% (Ford and Lincoln only)
SUVs, both new (the Explorer) and old (the Escape), were the chief engine of Ford's growth in July, with cars playing a supporting role and trucks basically stagnant.

Ford +13%
Ford was able to push the aged Escape (+66%) into fifth place overall again this month, making it the brand's bestselling nameplate after the F-series. The Fiesta was up (+58%) and the Fusion did well (+11%) but Focus sales (-3%) were supply-constrained. The Taurus (-10%) had no such excuses, and slipped below the Crown Victoria (+62%) in volume.

Lincoln +40%
Town Car sales doubled, as livery services rushed to get cars before the model's immanent demise. A bigger factor in Lincoln's upswing, however, was the MKZ (+80%), just over half of which were the hybrid version. The MKX also was up, by a third.

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