Half-year U.S. new vehicle sales highest since ’07

Kyodo, AP

Sales of new cars and light trucks in the United States in the first six months of this year rose 7.7 percent from a year earlier to 7,829,141 units, the highest since the same period in 2007, before the global financial crisis, according to data released Tuesday by a U.S. research firm.

June sales were also solid, rising 9.2 percent from a year earlier to 1,404,434 units, the highest for June in six years, Autodata Corp. said. The monthly figure translates into an annualized 15.96 million units after seasonal adjustments, up 650,000 from the previous month.

This indicates a steady expansion of the U.S. car market. In line with a gradual U.S. economic recovery, U.S. automakers, which are leaders in high-priced large vehicles such as pick-up trucks, posted strong gains.

In the January-June period, General Motors Co. topped the sales charts with 1,420,346 units, up 8 percent. Ford Motor Co. ranked second, gaining 13.1 percent to 1,289,736 units. Toyota Motor Corp. was third with sales of 1,108,791 units, up 6 percent.

Chrysler Group LLC was fourth with 886,720 units, up 9 percent, followed by Honda Motor Co. with 745,578 units, up 6.4 percent, and Nissan Motor Co. with 624,709 units, up 8.1 percent.

The top six rankings were unchanged from the previous year.

Analysts say they don’t see much that could slow the sales momentum of the first six months. The factors that juiced sales — low interest rates, wider credit availability, rising home construction and hot new vehicles — are likely to remain in place. So far, hiccups in the stock market, higher taxes and fluctuating gas prices haven’t dampened demand.

“I think the fundamentals for continued growth in the new vehicle sales industry are intact,” Chrysler’s U.S. sales chief, Reid Bigland, said last week.

In June, GM sold 264,843 units, up 6.5 percent, the highest since September 2008. Ford came second with 234,917.