The runaway market slowed another step in July, but DaimlerChrysler tripped and fell.
Total U.S. light-vehicle sales fell 3.7 percent in July, to just more than 1.4 million, the third consecutive month of slower sales momentum. Car sales fell 1.9 percent, and light trucks fell 5.6 percent.
The daily selling rate was almost exactly even with the year-ago month, up 0.1 percent.
'Zero change car, zero truck, zero total,' said George Pipas, Ford Motor Co. manager of sales analysis and reporting. There were 25 selling days in July 2000 compared with 26 a year ago. Unless stated otherwise, percentage changes here are based on unit sales, not the daily selling rate.
'It's comforting to know we have gotten off the eye-popping selling pace we had late last year and early this year - almost 19 million (seasonally adjusted annual selling rate) - without falling through the floor,' Pipas said.
He estimated the July seasonally adjusted annual selling rate at just more than 17 million units. Pipas said last week that Ford still expects 2000 sales to top the 1999 record of just more than 16.9 million, but not by much.
GM sales fell 6.4 percent from a year earlier.
Bill Lovejoy, GM group vice president of North America vehicle sales, service and marketing, blamed low inventories for a drop in July sales of GM full-sized sport-utilities - the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, and GMC Yukon and Yukon XL.
GM is renovating its Arlington, Texas, assembly plant and increasing capacity at its other full-sized sport-utility assembly plants. 'We are adversely impacted by inventory. We can't build them fast enough,' Lovejoy said.
Ford Motor Co., including Jaguar, Volvo and Land Rover, fell 3.3 percent in July. Nevertheless, Ford said last week its third-quarter production plan for North America is 9 percent higher than the year-ago quarter. That includes about 8,000 additional cars and 88,000 additional trucks, consisting almost entirely of three models: the new Escape compact sport-utility; the Ford Explorer Sport Trac, which has a pickup bed; and the four-door F-150 SuperCrew.
Honda, Mitsubishi and Subaru had monthly sales records. The Honda brand had its best month, not just the best July. Subaru beat a U.S. sales record set in 1986. Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America Inc. just missed beating its best all-time month, which was June 2000.
But Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. slipped 2.9 percent for the month, although it's still up 12 percent year to date.
Luxury import brands continued to outpace the rest of the market but not across the board. Jaguar had its 15th consecutive monthly sales record but by only eight units. Audi, Infiniti and Lexus also had record July sales. Porsche sales gained 40.4 percent.
Unusually, Mercedes-Benz also fell 8.2 percent, its worst year-ago comparison in three years. The company blamed the drop on the model-year changeover for the S and E class.
That made Lexus the best-selling luxury brand in July as Lincoln fell 11.3 percent and Cadillac 4.1 percent. Year to date, though, Lincoln has a lead of about 300 units over Mercedes.
It was that kind of month for parent DaimlerChrysler, too. Including Mercedes, DaimlerChrysler sales fell 15.1 percent, and its market share fell to only 14.4 percent of light-vehicle sales for the month from 16.3 percent a year ago.
Dodge sales dropped 16.6 percent, Jeep fell 17.8 percent and the discontinued Plymouth brand plunged 78.1 percent. But the Chrysler brand, boosted by what used to be the Plymouth Voyager, had a monthly sales record.
Through June, DaimlerChrysler sales were off only 0.2 percent, but the July results dragged the automaker down 3.8 percent for the year to date. That makes it the only automaker of the top seven to be down for the year to date.
DaimlerChrysler responded to the July numbers by increasing rebates. Specifically, it raised minivan rebates by $1,000, to $3,000 on many 2000 models.
'There has never been a better time to buy a minivan,' said Theodor Cunningham, executive vice president, global sales and marketing.
The former Chrysler Corp. brands expect to do better this fall with new Chrysler and Dodge minivans, and new mid-size sedans and coupes. Cunningham said, 'Armed with these new vehicles, we still expect record sales in 2000.'
Staff Reporter Joe Miller contributed to this report