WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New U.S. car and truck sales are expected to lag again in June, but things should pick up in the second half of the year, the largest auto dealers group said.
Paul Taylor, chief economist of the National Automobile Dealers Association, said the group anticipates inventory shortages that slowed May sales to affect this month's results. But a turnaround should occur after that, helped by an improving credit outlook and lower gasoline prices.
"Banks, credit unions and the automaker captives are all looking to finance new vehicle purchases in the second half of the year," Taylor said Friday.
"Gasoline prices are currently falling, and that will allow dealers to sell a full mix of new vehicles, ranging from small cars, crossovers to pickup trucks," he said.
Pump prices are down 18 cents over the past week with the national price for regular unleaded standing at $3.78 a gallon, the U.S. Energy Department said last week.
If gasoline prices had reached $4.50 or more, it would have shifted demand to hybrids and small economy cars, all currently in short supply, Taylor said.
Availability of many popular models remains under pressure from slowdowns associated with the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. For instance, Toyota Motor Corp. only has 10 days of inventory for its Prius hybrid, NADA said.