The U.S. auto market continued to expanded — just barely — in July, exceeding both last July’s sales and those of the previous month. Small cars had a harder time showing an improvement, because year-ago sales volumes were inflated by the federal government’s cash-for-clunkers program. Still, after the fear of a slowdown in June, July seemed to suggest that things are getting back on track, just not as quickly as anyone would like. -Joe Lorio
JULY 2010 SALES: PERCENT INCREASE/DECREASE VERSUS 2009
GENERAL MOTORS +26% (Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC only)
All four remaining GM divisions did well in July, with Cadillac and Buick both more than doubling sales. True, last July was pretty grim for both of those divisions. Chevrolet wasn’t quite so bad off last summer, as it was better able to take advantage of the cash-for-clunkers program, but this was still an encouraging result for GM.
The LaCrosse continues to pour it on, this month with an assist by the Enclave (+33%) and, surprisingly, the Lucerne (+64%). The Regal added about 10% to Buick’s total.
With the addition of the wagon and the coupe, the CTS more than doubled year-ago sales, but the surging SRX actually was the bestselling Caddy this month.
The Corvette finally had a good month (+24%), as did the Malibu (+33%), although the Malibu may have gotten a fleet bump. On the truck side, the Traverse (+49%) and the Tahoe (+65%) were the biggest gainers.
GMC’s Acadia (+12%) didn’t do nearly as well as Chevy’s Traverse, but GMC did enjoy a sudden spurt from its big vans (+133%) and increases for the Yukon (+48%) and the Sierra (+14%).
TOYOTA MOTOR SALES -3%
Toyota fell back a bit in July, but remember that, last July, cash-for-clunkers gave Toyota a big boost. Compared to the previous month, Toyota sales improved, and it slipped passed Ford.
The news on the car side was mostly bad, particularly for the small cars, whose sales pale compared to their cash-for-clunkers-fueled year-ago figures. Trucks, though, were stronger. For the redesigned 4Runner to triple sales is perhaps not surprising, but the FJ Cruiser? Other big boys getting their groove on included the Tundra (+46%), the Sequoia (+56%), and the Sienna (+47%)
Like its 4Runner twin, the redesigned GX had another big month (+100%), but higher-volume products like the IS (-23%) and the ES (-7%) were weak.
Scion continues to be laid low by its stale lineup.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY +3%
Ford fell back from the number 2 spot in sales to number 3 this month, behind Toyota. This was despite the fact that Ford managed a small percentage gain over last July while Toyota sales declined (Toyota was coming off a much better year-ago July). Factor out Volvo, and Ford did slightly better, +5%.
A pick up in demand for Ford’s big pickup (F-series sales surpassed 50,000) accounted for nearly half of the division’s sales gain for July. The Transit Connect (+531%) finally had a big month, but the Focus and the Escape slumped.
Now officially a dead brand walking, Mercury’s announced demise appears to be having a predictable effect on sales.
Lincoln’s second monthly sales decline has to be worrisome in Dearborn. The Navigator did slightly better (+26%) and the MKT added 606 units, but that couldn’t come close to making up for lost Town Car sales.
Volvo is still sorely missing the S60 (the new version should arrive soon), but XC60 sales have picked up.
AMERICAN HONDA -2%
Like Toyota, Honda sales were down from the clunkers-fueled July of one year ago, but it sold more cars than last month.
A blowout month for the RDX (+229%) and the MDX (+70%) powered Acura to a big July total. The TSX (+45%) helped as well, but the ZDX (578 units sold) has yet to make much of a contribution.
Unsurprisingly, the smallest and most economical Hondas had the hardest time living up to their prior-year performance. The Civic (-23%), the Insight (-19%), and the Fit (-27%) all fell significantly. Combined with a decline for the Accord (-15%), Honda finished down overall despite gains for all its trucks and SUVs.
Even thought the Koreans were major beneficiaries of last year’s cash-for-clunkers program, they still managed to ring up a major sales increase in July and passed Chrysler in the process.
Sales of the new Tucson tripled (+234%) while the new Sonata was up by a third. The Elantra (+34%) had another good month, but the Accent (-48%) had another bad one.
The new Sorento quadrupled sales June, but it was apparently just warming up; its July figure was ten times better than one year ago. The Borrego (+267%), the Rio (+100%), the Forte (+90%), and the Soul (+65%) also did well. Not so the Rondo (-69%) or the Amanti (-61%).
CHRYSLER LLC +5%
Chrysler was able to keep moving forward in July, but just barely. It squeaked out a tiny volume gain compared with the prior month and managed a small percentage increase over year-ago sales.
Chrysler was the worst performing division, with all the suffering due to the phase-out of the PT Cruiser, which actually had a pretty big July last year.
The Challenger had another white-hot month (+317%), joined to a somewhat lesser degree by the Nitro (+96%) and the Charger (+126%). The rental cars, Avenger (-34%) and Caliber (-63%), slumped, leaving Dodge even overall.
The new Grand Cherokee finally began arriving at dealers in some quantity, but its sales (5407) couldn’t come close to those of the Wrangler (10,043), which for now appears in no danger of losing its number one spot in the Jeep lineup.
An improving big-pickup market helped the Ram (+14%) and even the Dakota (+49%).
NISSAN NORTH AMERICA +15%
Nissan was the only one of the big three Japanese automakers to grow volumes versus last year, but it wasn’t enough to pass either Chrysler or Hyundai-Kia.
For the second month in a row, every Infiniti model was in positive territory. But whereas last month the G was the prime mover, this time it was the two freshest entries: the M (+76%) and the QX56 (+139%).
Nissan trucks had another good month, with every nameplate seeing gains, particularly the Armada (+312%), the Rogue (+62%), the Murano (+58%), and the Xterra (+57%). Smaller Nissan cars didn’t do so well-Cube (-54%) and Versa (-9%) — but the Maxima (+35%) saw a nice gain.
VOLKSWAGEN OF AMERICA +17%
The A5/S5 (+128%) and the Q5 (+89%) were again the hot Audis this month.
Like Audi, VW’s strong models in July were the same as in June: the CC and the Rabbit/GTI (both of which more than doubled) and the Tiguan (up 81%).
Unstoppable Subaru enjoyed a relatively modest 10% increase overall, but that pushed the maker of boxer-engine cars past the BMW Group. The Outback (+82%) and the Legacy (+37%) did all the heavy lifting, as the Impreza (-36%) and the perennially underachieving Tribeca (-66%) both declined.
BMW GROUP +10%
The BMW Group’s 12% increase over year-ago sales wasn’t quite as good as the industry average, but it certainly was better than last month’s negative figure and was enough to put BMW’s sales total ahead of Mazda, if not Subaru.
After a big month in June, the 7-series fell back (-22%), while the aged 6-series suddenly took off (+292%). The new 5-series was up only 10%, and the X5 (+51%) continues to do well.
Refreshed Minis won’t arrive until fall, so it’s no surprise that the current crop couldn’t match last summer’s sales pace.
Twenty-six Rollers left dealer lots in July, versus twenty-seven last July (exactly the same result as in June).
Mazda’s third good-news sales month in a row allowed it to scoot past Daimler A. G. Don’t credit the new Mazda2 (only 38 trickled into dealerships) or the volume Mazda3 (-1%); instead, look to the CX-7 (+94%), the CX-9 (+48%), and the Mazda6 (+24%).
DAIMLER A.G. +5%
Holy rhinoplasty! The R-class gets a nose job and sales jump 772%. The GL (+40%), the C-class (+19%), and the M-class (+18%) also gained. The newness factor appears to be wearing off for the E-class (-2%) however.
Smart’s weak sales look even worse when compared with last summer’s clunkers-bolstered figures.
For the fourth month in a row, 3 Maybachs were sold. Nationwide.
JAGUAR LAND ROVER +46%
Jaguar Land Rover followed up a big June with a big July, as the new Jag XJ worked its magic, outselling the XF by a whisker. At Land Rover, the LR4 (+220%) again enjoyed a big jump.
After taking the crown for biggest sales increase last month, Porsche did the same in July, albeit with a smaller increase. The surging Cayenne (+68%) retook the bestseller spot from the Panamera (910 sold vs. 807), while sales of the Boxster increased by half.
The new Kizashi couldn’t come close to making up the declines for the SX4 (-60%), the Equator (-67%), and the Grand Vitara (-42%).
TOP 5 BESTSELLING NAMEPLATES (and rank last month)
1. Ford F-series 50,449 (#1)
2. Toyota Camry 35,058 (#3)
3. Chevrolet Silverado 34,664 (#2)
4. Honda Accord 25,386 (#4)
5. Toyota Corolla/Matrix 27,345 (#6)