This summer's auto sales continue at a pretty good clip, but that doesn't mean there's equanimity in the results of the various automakers. The industry's annualized sales rate in July again was over 14 million units. That's not bad, considering that 2011 ended with 12.8 million new vehicles sold. July's pace was also 9% ahead of last year's.
But last summer, as you'll recall, was a highly atypical time, when the Japanese earthquake and tsunami caused severe product shortages for Toyota and Honda (and also Infiniti and Subaru), which created an opening for their U.S. and Korean competitors. Today, the Japanese are back to full strength, and the easy times for their competitors are over. Thus, we see declines for General Motors and Ford -- although not for Chrysler -- and Hyundai/Kia notched only a small increase.
The good news for all the players is that transaction prices remain strong. Low interest rates are helping to offset those costs for buyers, and strong used-car values are helping to keep monthly payments manageable for those who lease.
JULY 2012 SALES RESULTS AND PERCENT CHANGE VERSUS JULY 2011.
GENERAL MOTORS -6%
After two monthly sales increases, General Motors declined in July. Only Cadillac, with the arrival of the XTS, bucked the downtrend. GM blamed the decrease on reduced fleet sales but a reinvigorated Toyota and Honda surely were a factor as well.
After selling more than 30,000 copies of the Malibu last month, sales were less than half of that in July (or -37% versus July last year), although GM cited low inventories. That was likely not a factor for the Cruze (-39%), however. In better news, the Spark ignited 1460 sales, the Volt did 1849, and the Sonic was over 6000. Trucks were flat overall, with the addition of the fleet-only Captiva Sport helping to offset declines for the Silverado (-13%) and the Traverse (-60%).
Like Chevrolet, GMC saw a big surge in demand for its big vans, which more than doubled, but a drop in sales of its big pickups (-12%). The Acadia (-29%) fell significantly but the smaller Terrain was up a bit (+4%).
With LaCrosse sales off by a third and the Regal down by half, the Verano in July became the bestselling Buick sedan. Had the Enclave (-29%) dropped a little bit more, the Verano could have been the bestselling Buick, period.
The XTS -- but not yet the ATS -- has arrived at Cadillac showrooms, and it added 1739 to the division's total last month. That didn't comprise Cadillac's total sales increase, though, as the SRX (+19%) and the Escalade (+18%) also lent a hand.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY -4%
Like General Motors, Ford sold fewer new cars and trucks in July than it did last July. And like General Motors, Ford pointed to reduced fleet sales. Competition, however, is definitely heating up, although Ford has a couple of key new products in the just introduced Escape and the soon-to-arrive new Fusion.
Unlike last month, it was Ford trucks that were down in July, while cars managed a small gain. The loss of some 6000 sales from the discontinued Ranger pretty much accounted for the drop in truck volume. The Escape was down (-12%) but still managed to be the bestselling SUV. On the car side, the Fusion (+21%) and the Taurus (+40%) both did well again, joined this time by the Focus (+11%).
Lincoln -11% Lincoln slipped in July -- worst, percentage-wise, was the MKS (-20%) and the best was the MKT (+57%).
TOYOTA MOTOR SALES +26%
Toyota continues to notch big percentage increases over its depressed, year-ago levels, although this month's percentage increase is not nearly as big as july's.
Toyota +24% The Camry (+11%) stayed out in front as America's bestselling passenger car, and even pulled ahead of the Chevy Silverado pickup to be the number-two nameplate overall. The aging Corolla/Matrix (+35%) couldn't catch the new Honda Civic, but is still doing incredibly well. The now-expanded Prius family doubled last year's numbers, and in so doing passed the RAV4.
The new GS, the ES (+32%), and the RX (+35%) are leading the charge at Lexus. The LS (-14%) and the CT (-4%) look weak.
Scion +97% Unlike last month, the FR-S sports car was not the bestselling Scion in July, as the xB (+43%), the xD (+37%), and the tC (+27%) all recorded gains. Add in the iQ's 557 units, and Scion volume doubled.