DETROIT -- U.S. light-vehicle sales in June may rise to an annual rate of 10 million units for the first time this year, a sign that a two-year decline may have hit bottom.
An Automotive News poll of nine analysts showed an average forecast for a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 10 million in June. That would be higher than Mays 9.9 million but still well below the 13.1 million from June 2008. Sales rates have fluctuated between 9.1 million and 9.9 million so far this year, hovering at 27-year lows.
We believe we are seeing a genuine stabilization in sales rates that sets the stage for a material uptick in the SAAR in the second half of the year, Goldman Sachs analyst Patrick Archambault said in a research note.
Analysts at the auto information site Edmunds.com forecast the smallest drops this year for Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Group LLC, General Motors, Nissan North America and Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. The smaller percentage declines partially stem from comparisons to drops that steepened more sharply as 2008 progressed. June will mark the 24th year-over-year monthly decline in 25 months.
Among the six biggest automakers, Ford will post the smallest decline, 15.6 percent, Edmunds.com said. Ford sales analyst George Pipas pegged the drop at between 10 and 20 percent.
Chrysler, which emerged from bankruptcy June 10, benefited from liquidation sales at its 789 dealerships whose franchises were pulled June 9, analysts said. Edmunds.com said Chryslers sales dropped 29.1 percent from June 2008.
Some analysts noted a strong month for Pontiac sales, which had declined 47.7 percent through May as bankrupt GM boosted incentives to start phasing out the brand by the end of 2010. GMs sales slid 28.9 percent, Edmunds.com forecast.
Honda fell 31.4 percent; Nissan, 24.2 percent; and Toyota, 28.9 percent, according to Edmunds.coms forecast.
Bloombergs poll of seven analysts predicted a June annual sales rate of 10.1 million units.
Even if Junes industrywide sales end up better than any results so far this year, they may have been hindered by GMs bankruptcy filing June 1, widespread plant shutdowns by GM and Chrysler, and consumers who are waiting for the cash for guzzlers law to take effect, Credit Suisse analyst Christopher Ceraso said in a research note.
President Barack Obama signed the guzzlers legislation last Wednesday, but the government doesnt have to complete rules for the program until July 23.
Interest in the law -- which offers vouchers to consumers who scrap gas-guzzling vehicles and buy new ones with better fuel economy -- may help boost demand to 11 million units in the second half of 2009, Deutsche Bank analyst Rod Lache said in a research note.
But consumers who are postponing purchases until they can receive their $3,500 to $4,500 in federal vouchers will likely be disappointed, Ceraso said.
People who drive clunkers generally roll into used vehicles, he said.
Ceraso said the voucher amounts will add $500 to $1,500 to a gas guzzlers trade-in value -- not enough, he said, to get guzzler owners into a new car. Many who drive gas guzzlers either wont want to pay or wont be able to pay for a new vehicle or its higher insurance costs and wont be able to qualify for a new-car loan, Ceraso said.
Risks to a second-half recovery include the recent increase in gasoline prices, said Goldman Sachs Archambault. Todays U.S. average for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline is $2.63, up from $2.50 a month earlier but down from $4.09 a year earlier, according to AAA data.
Gas prices hit their highest point on record in July 2008, with AAA data stretching back to 1974. Expensive gasoline slowed sales of light trucks. But in the fall, as the U.S. plunged further into its 19-month recession, gas prices plummeted. They hit bottom Dec. 30 at $1.62.