Sales momentum for the U.S. automakers slowed appreciably last month, as only the Chrysler Group managed to finish in the black, with a 13 percent increase in deliveries—about half the gain posted by Toyota in July. Ford sales slipped by 4 percent, while the General lost ground to the tune of a 6 percent volume decrease. The trio clearly was hoping to do better, but each did have some good news to spin our way, along with reasons to believe they'll get back on track in August.
July Auto Sales: All Chrysler Groups Improve
The 13 percent volume gain enjoyed by the Chrysler Group—accounted for by 126,089 vehicle deliveries—actually was above the industry average last month, but mostly because the average gain was just 8.9 percent. Still, it was the best July in five years for the company, and the Chrysler brand itself did quite well, showing a 35 percent jump over the same month last year. Further, all three of its models posted strong marks, with the Chrysler 200 improving sales by 43 percent on record July volume (9,287 units), the Chrysler 300 seeing a 41 percent increase with 3,319 deliveries and the Chrysler Town & Country up by 25 percent, on 8,106 sales.
Also, while the Dodge brand eked out just a 6 percent bump, its results are being deflated by the fact that production of the Dodge Caliber and Dodge Nitro is winding down, taking sales with it. The Dodge Journey actually had a record month, with a 69 percent leap on 7,051 units, and the Dodge Avenger (5,188 units), Dodge Charger (6,440 units) and Dodge Grand Caravan (9,247 units) all expanded sales by at least 21 percent for the month.
Other Chrysler Group highlights for July:
- The FIAT 500 continued to outperform the industry and benefited from a 22 percent increase in sales and 3,710 sales.
- The Ram pickup, which lifted sales by 17 percent on 23,824 deliveries, remained the fastest-growing mainstream entry in the full-size pickup segment.
- Sales of the Jeep Patriot (5,870 units), Jeep Liberty (7,803 units) and Jeep Grand Cherokee (11,571 units) were up 28 percent, 34 percent and 22 percent, respectively.
Said Reid Bigland, head of U.S. Sales for the Chrysler Group and president/CEO of the Dodge brand: "July was another solid month for Chrysler Group as we again demonstrated our disciplined and methodical approach to growing sales and profits. In July, we recorded a 13 percent increase in sales and our 28th consecutive month of year-over-year sales growth. In addition, we also announced a second-quarter modified operating profit of $755 million, representing our highest quarterly profit in more than a decade."
July Auto Sales: Ford Fusion Sets July Sales Record
The Ford Motor Company's 173,966 July sales marked a 4 percent retreat versus the same month last year, but the automaker is putting much of the blame on its fleet business, and notes that retail sales actually were up by 2 percent. The Ford Fusion did almost all of the heavy lifting, though. The Blue Oval's midsize contender set a July record with 23,326 sales, growing deliveries at a 20.7 percent clip for the month. Also having fairly decent July performances were the Ford Explorer, with its highest July sales since 2006 (11,313 of them) and a 14.3 percent gain; Ford Taurus, now realizing a surge of interest in the 2013 model, along with a 15.3 percent sales increase that represented 5,256 deliveries; and the Ford Focus, good for a 10.5 percent step in the right direction on sales of 16,454 units.
However, the only other Ford product with a double-digit improvement was the Lincoln MKT, and that vehicle's 57.4 percent jump in sales reflected just 738 deliveries. On a more positive note, Lincoln-wise, the Lincoln MKZ continued its slow but consistent sales growth in July with a 5.7 percent volume increase to 3,033 units; consider it a good sign that the all-new MKZ, slated to arrive later this year, should debut to stronger-than-expected interest.
Oh, there was one more July performance of particular note: The 2013 Ford Mustang continued its ongoing streak of three consecutive months of growth by ringing up an 8.3 percent sales bump on 7,371 units—almost 400 more than its Chevy Camaro nemesis.
"Fuel economy continues to be a top consumer purchase driver across our lineup," added Ken Czubay, Ford vice president for U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service. "Ford's fuel-efficient F-150 EcoBoost is a favorite among truck buyers returning to the market as new-home construction picks up. Cars featuring strong fuel economy are in demand as well, particularly Fusion with its fifth straight monthly sales record. Fusion's strength positions us well for the fall arrival of the all-new Fusion featuring EcoBoost engines, a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid."
July Auto Sales: GM's Freshest Faces off to Strong Starts
Deliveries at General Motors slipped by 6 percent in July, based on sales of 201,237 vehicles, but—like Ford—the General pointed to a pre-planned decline in fleet sales (of 41 percent) as the culprit. On the other hand, unlike Ford, GM also went into the red with its retail sales, which were off by 3 percent.
Where GM found its mojo in July was with its newer products, especially the smaller ones, and its premium Cadillac entries. Relying on GM to slice up the segments, the automaker indicated:
- Combined retail sales of its small cars (in the compact segment and below) garnered a 41 percent increase.
- The Buick Verano delivered 4,235 units last month, its seventh straight monthly improvement following its premiere in December 2011.
- In the subcompact segment, the Chevy Sonic brought in 6,278 sales and has now led its class in retail sales for four consecutive months.
Chevy's first minicar, the Chevrolet Spark, reported 1,460 sales in its first month on the market.
- GM's lux division reported a 20.7 percent sales boost as the Cadillac Escalade (1,123 units, excluding ESV and EXT), Cadillac SRX (4,911 units) and Cadillac CTS (4,743 units) all grew deliveries, and the all-new Cadillac XTS luxury sedan debuted to 1,739 sales.
Also, in a strong sign the economy is continuing to recover, GM's body-on-frame work vans, the Chevrolet Express and GMC Savanna, both welcomed seriously robust growth: The former outperformed last July's results by 74.6 percent, on 9,359 deliveries, and the latter notched a gaudy 117.6 percent improvement, courtesy of 2,653 sales.
"Cadillac hit a home run and our newest Chevrolets and Buicks are performing very well," reported Kurt McNeil, vice president of U.S. Sales Operations for GM. "Signs of a housing recovery and good news on consumer confidence and household income should help keep the light-vehicle selling rate in the 14-million range and drive seasonally higher truck sales as we move forward."
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