SOUTHFIELD, MICHIGAN – Demand for profitable light trucks gave Ford Motor Co. and top Japanese automakers better sales than analysts had estimated for June, following a five-month streak of industry declines.
Toyota Motor Corp.’s deliveries climbed 2.1 percent in June, while Honda Motor Co. sales rose 0.8 percent from the same month last year, both surpassing analyst estimates.
Nissan Motor Co., which had been expected to record a 2 percent drop, saw sales rise 2 percent instead.
Sales of Toyota’s RAV4 spiked 25 percent while Honda’s HR-V saw a 35 percent gain.
Sales at Ford slipped 5 percent, but even that was less than the 6 percent drop analysts had been estimating. A 14 percent slide in sales to fleet customers drove Ford’s decline. Sedan sales at Ford plunged 23 percent, led by a 32 percent drop in sales of the Fusion family car, while deliveries of Ford’s biggest money maker, the F-Series truck line, rose 9.8 percent.
Collapsing demand for sedans and coupes from American consumers and rental-car companies alike have produced small declines in U.S. sales volumes every month this year, and projections indicated the pattern would hold in June.
The pace of sales typically increases in the second half of the year, powered by promotions starting with the July 4 holiday and lasting through year-end discounts, although none of the analysts surveyed by Bloomberg project another year of record sales.
“Recent history has shown that the second half is usually pretty good,” Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with Edmunds, said last week in an interview, noting that the better sales will come at a cost. “I think because of some of the inventory situations, pretty much across the board by all automakers, that we’ll see heavier incentives, especially at the end of the summer.”
General Motors Co. is the only carmaker to have missed estimates in reporting so far, with sales dropping 4.7 percent, compared with an average forecast for a 3.4 percent decline, as it curtailed fleet sales. Its truck-focused GMC brand reported a 3.6 percent decline.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, which had been expected to report the biggest sales drop at 7.9 percent, narrowly beat estimates with a 7.4 percent slide.
Among the biggest automakers, only Toyota and Honda had been expected to report increases in June deliveries. Volkswagen AG, the world’s biggest automaker but still a smaller player in the U.S., may have seen its combined VW and Audi brand sales rise with the addition of the VW Atlas SUV that is made in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler are all shortening summer shutdowns, or forgoing them altogether at some U.S. plants that make popular SUVs and pickups, as demand for the bigger vehicles continues to chug along. At the same time, several car plants are bracing for a cut in summertime shifts and output as manufacturers try to align supply with still-slumping passenger-car demand.
The industrywide selling rate, adjusted for seasonal trends, may have slipped in June to about 16.6 million, compared with 16.8 million a year ago, according to the average of analysts’ estimates. The full-year total of 17.2 million analysts are projecting would end a seven-year winning streak for the auto sector but would still mark the fourth-best year on record. The industry sold 17.55 million cars and light trucks last year.
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