Analysts are steeled for the Big 3 to post a big drop in U.S. sales for July, when compared with last summer's employee price-fueled blitz that pushed the industry to a record high.
U.S. auto sales in July will be down about 11 percent from July 2005, predicts consumer information Web site Edmunds.com. Each Big 3 automaker is expected to post double-digit percentage losses, while Japanese rivals Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. and American Honda Motor Co. -- which didn't join in the employee price bonanza -- are expected to notch gains.
Yet despite less generous incentives and higher gasoline prices this year, some auto dealers say this summer hasn't been a bummer.
George Sleister, general manager of Master Pontiac-Buick-GMC in Augusta, Ga., said that although he isn't setting records, the business is doing well.
Sleister said that despite soaring gasoline prices, his truck business has picked up because of good rebates. He said the 0 percent financing on 2007 models earlier in the month helped sales tremendously, and since then, sales haven't tapered off as much as he expected.
Frank Ursomarso Sr., president of Union Park Automotive Group Inc. in Wilmington, Del., said his GM business is up "big time" in July. He holds Pontiac and GMC franchises.
Ursomarso said the sales in his other franchises, which include BMW, Honda, Volvo and Jaguar, are about the same as last year. With the end of the model year coming up and a limited availability of Hondas, Ursomarso said his sales won't equal those of July 2005, but they will be in the same range.
"I could sell 100 more Hondas if I had them," Ursomarso said.
Some dealers said they prefer lower sales volumes this July instead of last year's low-profit, employee-priced deals.
Jim Snead, owner of Jim Snead Ford in Waynesboro, Va., said that although his new-car sales are lower this July, they are tracking with July 2005.
Said Snead, "Last July we had more inventory because of employee pricing, but I never want to see that happen again."
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