DETROIT (Bloomberg) -- U.S. auto sales this month probably posted the smallest increase since February as consumers concerned about unemployment and the economy avoid large purchases, analysts said.
Industrywide deliveries in the month may reach an annualized rate of 11.2 million vehicles, the average of eight analysts' estimates compiled by Bloomberg. That would top last year's depressed 9.7 million-unit pace while declining from 11.6 million in May, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The figures will be announced Thursday.
“Despite all the talk about things getting better, it doesn't seem that way in many people's homes or in their bottom line,” said Jessica Caldwell, director of industry analysis at auto researcher Edmunds.com in Santa Monica, Calif. “It's going to be a tortoise-like recovery.”
U.S. auto sales have “flat-lined” since last year's third quarter because consumers have been unwilling to make big purchases, Mark Fields, Ford Motor Co.'s president of the Americas, said last week. The 9.7 percent jobless rate and continued lower home prices have hurt consumers' confidence and are keeping them out of showrooms, dealers and analysts said.
J.D. Power & Associates cut its estimate of individuals' purchases this year to 9.5 million from about 9.7 million, said Jeff Schuster, an analyst with the researcher. J.D. Power estimates 11.8 million, including less-profitable sales to fleet buyers. Annual auto deliveries averaged 16.8 million from 2000 through 2007 and fell to 10.4 million last year, the lowest in 27 years.
Light vehicle sales in June may match the 11.2 million pace this year through May, trailing Ford's 2010 forecast of 11.3 million to 12.3 million, Fields said.
‘Gives us pause'
“The consumer is feeling a bit better, but not enough to go out and go back to the old ways of spending,” Fields said in a presentation last week. “It gives us pause because of the tight labor market and the overall situation in the credit markets.”
The Conference Board said yesterday that its confidence index slumped to 52.9 this month from a revised 62.7 in May. The private research group's June figure was less than the lowest forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.
Showroom traffic is down 20 percent at Frank Ursomarso's GMC-Buick dealership in Wilmington, Del.
“The numbers are way down,” Ursomarso said. “We're a big banking town, and they've had a tough go in the newspapers with the banking reform bill. Day after day of negative stories.”
Ford probably overtook Toyota Motor Corp. to become second in U.S. sales in the first half of 2010, according to TrueCar.com in Santa Monica, Calif. Ford, which last outsold Toyota in 2006, might post a 16 percent sales jump, the average of six analysts' estimates, while Toyota's may rise 9 percent, the average of four estimates.