DETROIT -- The U.S. seasonally adjusted annualized rate of vehicle sales will not reach the 13 million unit range until the end of summer, Ford Motor Co.'s senior sales analyst said today.
In May, the SAAR came in at 11.8 million units. June's rate is expected to be similar, said Ford's George Pipas.
"I don't think there's enough inventory [of Japanese automakers' vehicles] out there for July to return the industry sales rate to 13 million units," Pipas said. "I don't think we can look for anything close to 13 million until August."
Ford Motor Co.'s June sales are expected to be higher than a year ago, Pipas said. Ford's total U.S. market share will be in the 17 percent range, he said, and its retail market share should come in around 15 percent.
Pipas expects Lincoln's retail sales to rise in June from year-earlier levels on sales of the MKZ sedan and MKX crossover. But he said Lincoln's retail market share will remain flat compared with a year ago.
Many Japanese automakers have experienced inventory shortages since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disabled plants in Japan. As those automakers' inventories rise later this summer, that will help boost U.S. industry sales. Also helping industry sales, Pipas said, are a slowly expanding U.S. economy, a rising average age of vehicles on the road and new drivers coming into the market.
No double dip
Pipas echoed comments made earlier this month by Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas, indicating that June's auto sales are likely to be about the same as May's and "maybe better."
"It doesn't seem to be getting worse," Pipas said. "The likelihood of a double dip is not even on our radar screen."
Ford's annual industry sales forecast remains 13 million to 13.5 million units.
"At some point in the second half of the year, we'll return to the sales rate we saw in the early part of this year or better," Pipas said.
Some of that optimism comes from easing gasoline prices, Pipas said. "What you spend at the pump, you can't spend elsewhere," he said.
The current national average price for regular gasoline is $3.543, according to AAA. That's down from $3.785 exactly one month ago.
Fiesta, Focus output unchanged
Ford is seeing sales of the Fiesta subcompact and Focus compact outpacing even the popular redesigned Explorer crossover. Ford ended May with less than a 20-day supply of the Fiesta and Focus combined. Pipas expects to end June on a similar note.
Ford has no plans to increase production of the Fiesta and Focus or alter the pricing to take advantage of the Japanese vehicle shortage, Pipas said.
"We're producing as many as we care to, as many as we want to and as many as we can," Pipas said. He added that the plants that build the Fiesta and the Focus are running two shifts on overtime.
Small-car sales' portion of the overall market peaked this year in April when small cars accounted for 24.3 percent of industry sales, Pipas said.
In the first three weeks in June, small-car sales dipped to 22.7 percent mostly because of the lack of Japanese inventory, he said. Pipas said small-car sales will trend lower, as is typical in the latter half of the year, but not as fast as historically.
"Why? Because there is evidence that Toyota and Honda customers will defer their purchases until later in the year," Pipas said.
Japanese automakers are making it easier for customers to wait for the cars and trucks they want.
American Honda Motor Co. is offering to extend customers' leases by up to six months on most models, so that customers can keep their current vehicles while waiting for inventory of replacement models.
Honda also will give customers rain checks on current incentives if they commit to models that are unavailable. Customers would be able to lock in existing incentives in July that can be used through October as the vehicles become available.
Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. also has launched an effort to keep customers in existing leases. Under the program, Toyota will extend leases by six months. Toyota also will give a lease customer a $750 coupon to use when he turns in a vehicle and leases another Toyota.