Sensational June sales confirmed the growing belief that only war, a strike or an oil embargo can stop U.S. light-vehicle sales from setting a record in 1999.
June sales of 1.6 million cars and light trucks were 2.3 percent ahead of the year-ago month. That's impressive, because sales in June 1998 rose 18.7 percent over June 1997.
Ford Motor Co. said it broke the any-month sales record it set in June 1978. Its total light-vehicle sales gained 1.7 percent over 1998.
General Motors managed a 0.7 percent improvement, compared with an exceptionally strong year-ago month, when its sales were up 29.3 percent.
Last year, 'loyalty coupons' boosted June sales for the Big 3. GM said June 1999 was its best month in a decade.
DaimlerChrysler sales slipped 4.5 percent in June. Still, Daim-lerChrysler had its best first half ever for Chrysler Corp. and Mercedes-Benz.
'The question is fast becoming: by how much will the industry sales record be eclipsed?' said Robert Rewey, Ford Motor Co. group vice president for marketing, sales and service. The sales record is 16,026,426 light vehicles, in 1986.
Through six months, sales were 8,540,069 cars and light trucks, a 7.0 percent increase over 1998.
LOTS OF LUXURY
Luxury import brands continued on a tear. Lexus, Mercedes, BMW and Jaguar all set monthly sales records. American Honda Motor Co. Inc. also scored a June record, with more than 90,000 Honda and Acura sales.
Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., which had record any-month sales in May, had record sales for June, at 122,747.
A June light-truck record for Toyota included 8,011 Tundra pickups.
George Pipas, Ford sales analysis and reporting manager, could not resist pointing out that Japanese-brand truck sales are still pretty small in absolute terms, despite big percent increases.
Ford in June had its 14th monthly light-truck sales record in a row, at 242,277. Pipas said that compared to Toyota Tundra sales in the second half of June, 'We sold more full-sized pickups during lunch yesterday.'
Staff Reporters Donna Harris and Mark Rechtin contributed to this report