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Toyota, Nissan kick off summer with steady U.S. car sales in June

Kyodo

Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. posted steady sales gains in the United States in June, despite a shorter selling month, while sales at Honda Motor Co. dropped almost 6 percent, according to statistics from Autodata Corp.

Having two fewer selling days than the previous year pushed numbers down for the industry, especially after the recent months of robust growth. But solid consumer demand beat analysts’ expectations and gave a boost to the beginning of the busy summer season.

Dealers sold 1.42 million light vehicles in June, 1.2 percent more than the year before, to continue a four-month streak of annual gains. The total translates to 16.98 million units in seasonally adjusted annual sales, the highest since July 2006, the U.S. research company said Tuesday.

In the first six months of the year, overall sales grew 4.3 percent from a year earlier to 8.16 million units, the strongest first-half result since 2007, when roughly 8.25 million cars were sold in the comparable period. The result suggests a resilient market recovery that has weathered slow sales caused by unusually cold waves in the first two months of the year.

Japanese automakers apart from Honda steered through the trend, registering solid semiannual increases. Half-year sales increased 5.1 percent to 1.17 million units for Toyota, while they expanded 12.8 percent for Nissan to 704,477. Honda’s sales dipped 0.8 percent to 739,436.

In June alone, Toyota sold 201,714 cars, up 3.3 percent from the year before, putting it in the No. 3 spot. The company said its key Camry and Corolla sedans posted double digit gains, while sales of its luxury Lexus brand were up about 10 percent.

“Just as the calendar had an impact on the auto industry sales in May, it also had an effect on June results with one less weekend and two fewer selling days. Despite those challenges, the industry had an outstanding month,” Toyota group Vice President Bill Fay said during a monthly sales call.

Honda sales were down 5.8 percent with 129,023 cars sold. Sales of the core Accord and Civic sedans and CR-V sport utility vehicle helped to lift its overall figure.

“Despite an easing of the pace in June, the larger sales trend throughout the industry remains robust,” American Honda Senior Vice President Jeff Conrad said in a press release. “Our core products remain strong.”

Nissan posted a 5.3 percent increase, selling 109,643 cars and setting a record for the month. Its Sentra sedan and Versa subcompact saw double digit gains while its core Altima sedan saw sales drop 2.9 percent.

Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., the maker of Subaru cars, sold 41,367 units, up 5.4 percent.

Among the three major U.S. automakers, General Motors Co. sold 267,461 vehicles, up just 1 percent, making it the largest manufacturer in the country. GM said sales to commercial customers grew for the eighth month in a row, marking the best June results since 2007.

“It is clear that our commercial and small business customers are expecting a strong second half of the year and they are building their fleets to meet demand,” Vice President of Sales Operation Kurt McNeil said in a press release.

Although Ford Motor Co. sold 5.8 percent fewer vehicles in the month than last year, the 221,396 vehicles sold still made it the second-largest player in the U.S. market. Most models posted a decrease in sales, but the automaker said its Fusion mid-size and Transit Connect compact van were exceptionally strong in the month.

“Both the Fusion and Transit Connect set records in June, continuing their sales momentum,” Ford official John Felice said.

Chrysler Group sold 166,608 vehicles, up 9.2 percent from a year ago. Sales of the automaker’s Jeep brand SUVs were up 28 percent from a year ago, driving the company to its 51st consecutive month of annual sales gains.