DETROIT -- U.S. light-vehicle sales, led by Chrysler Group, Nissan Motor Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp., rose 1 percent last month, exceeding many projections and helping the auto industry end the first half of 2014 on an unexpected upswing.
The annualized sales rate surged to 17 million, easily topping forecasts, from 15.9 million a year earlier and just above May’s 16.8 million rate.
It is the fourth consecutive month the annualized sales rate has topped 16 million and first time the SAAR has hit the 17 million threshold since July 2006.
June car sales fell 1 percent in the overall U.S. market while light-truck demand rose 4 percent.
Most analysts expected June car and light-truck demand to taper off after the industry's strong showing in May. But June’s results all but erased memories of the year’s sluggish start for many automakers.
Across the industry, June sales were helped by “a combination of strong retail sales in the last week of the month and fleet deliveries,” Wells Fargo analyst David Lim wrote in a report today.
GM, rocked by a recall crisis for months, said June deliveries rose 1 percent, with retail deliveries advancing 1 percent and fleet volume up 2 percent. It was the fourth consecutive monthly gain for GM and another sign the automaker is weathering the recall of 25.7 million vehicles in the United States so far this year.
Sales rose 11 percent at GMC and 18 percent at Buick while volume was flat at Cadillac and slipped 3 percent at Chevrolet -- the brand with the greatest exposure to the company's recall fallout.
GM said its car volume slid 10 percent, crossover shipments edged up 3 percent and truck and SUV deliveries jumped 13 percent in June.
“June was the third very strong month in a row for GM, with every brand up on a selling-day adjusted basis,” Kurt McNeil, GM’s vice president for U.S. sales operations, said in a statement. “Our commercial and small business customers are expecting a strong second half of the year and they are building their fleets to meet demand.”
‘Steadily recovering industry’
At Toyota Motor Sales, combined Toyota, Scion and Lexus volume increased 3 percent to 201,714 units last month.
“Sales in the first half of 2014 indicate a steadily recovering industry, and we expect this pace to increase as we move into the second part of the year,” Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president and general manager, said in a statement previewing the company’s results. “In June, Camry and Corolla posted double-digit gains as passenger cars showed renewed strength industry-wide.”
Nissan Group of North America reported sales advanced 5 percent to 109,643 units last month. Nissan Division volume advanced 6 percent; June was the division’s 15th record month out of the last 16. However, Infiniti deliveries fell 6 percent.
American Honda's deliveries dropped 6 percent to 129,023 in June -- its fourth decline out of the last six months. Sales at the Honda brand fell 4 percent on a 13 percent decline in light truck deliveries while Acura volume dropped 19 percent.
“Despite an easing of the pace in June, the larger sales trend throughout the industry remains robust,” said Jeff Conrad, Honda division senior vice president and general manager.
At Ford, volume slipped 6 percent on a 6 percent decline at the Ford division and 3 percent drop in Lincoln volume. Ford said its retail sales dropped 5 percent and fleet shipments declined 7 percent. The company's U.S. deliveries have now dropped in four of the last six months.
Mazda reported its best June sales in 10 years with volume up 17 percent to 26,208 vehicles. The gains were driven by its core models, with CX-5 compact crossover sales growing 16 percent to 7,943 units, Mazda6 mid-sized sedan volume up 25 percent to 4,793 units and its top-selling Mazda3 compact up 17 percent to 8,824 units.
Through June, Mazda sales have climbed 8 percent to 156,431 vehicles.
Subaru's sales streak continued last month with volume up 5 percent to 41,367 units -- its best June ever. But it was the brand's smallest gain on a percentage basis since volume slipped 15 percent in Nov. 2011.