DETROIT -- The popularity of employee discount sales pitches will make July a huge sales month for the Big 3.
Total sales for the month will be up about 15.4 percent compared to July 2004, says Edmunds.com. And the Big 3 will grab about 64.3 percent of those sales -- the domestic automakers' largest share of the market since March 2001, the online research firm adds.
Automakers will report their July sales on Tuesday, Aug. 2.
But any market share gains could be temporary. General Motors says it will end its Employee Pricing for Everyone campaign on Monday, Aug. 1. Rivals Ford Motor Co. and the Chrysler group say they will wait until then to decide if they will extend their programs.
And while the Big 3 are looking at big gains for July, analysts don't expect their Japanese competitors to post big losses. Edmunds.com expects the combined market share of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., American Honda Motor Co. and Nissan North America in July to reach 24.4 percent, down about 0.3 percentage points from a year ago.
"Despite the success of the current promotions, the Big 3 have largely failed to attract the attention of import drivers," said Jesse Toprak, senior analyst with Edmunds.com.
Burnham Securities analyst David Healy expects Ford's sales, including its import brands, to rise 14 percent in July.
Healy foresees Chrysler group sales rising 20 percent in July. He notes that the spike is due partly to the automaker's unusually poor performance in July 2004.
GM's sales, including Saab, maintained June's torrid pace in July. Analysts expect a gain ranging from 6 percent to 10 percent, compared to July 2004.
Healy cautions that a slowdown looms.
"The inevitable hangover is on the way, and will probably hit GM beginning in August and Ford and the Chrysler group starting in September," he wrote in a sales preview report issued on Thursday, July 28.
Edmunds.com predicts Nissan will see its sales rise 2 percent in July. It also expects Toyota's July sales to decline less than 1 percent over last July, and Honda's sales to drop about 1 percent.
While domestic automakers didn't hurt imports considerably, they did beat another formidable opponent -- gasoline prices, said Bob Schnorbus, chief economist for J.D. Power and Associates.
"Gasoline prices are not killing the market, just putting a drag on it," Schnorbus said in a statement. "The sales surge we saw in June and July was caused by incentives overpowering high gasoline prices."