In a historic shift, Toyota outsold perennial market leader GM after a 73 percent jump in the latest three-month period. And Honda Motor and Hyundai Motor Group outsold Ford Motor for the second month in a row – for the first time ever.
“The U.S. economy is accelerating, consumer spending is robust and jobs are plentiful,” Elaine Buckberg, GM's chief economist, said in a statement. “Consumer demand for vehicles is also strong, but constrained by very tight inventories. We expect continued high demand in the second half of this year and into 2022.”
In the second quarter of 2020, U.S. sales plunged 33 percent as the coronavirus kept buyers out of showrooms and forced the closure of assembly plants.
The leanest inventories in the industry didn't prevent Toyota from advancing 40 percent last month, with volume up 42 percent at the Toyota division and 29 percent at Lexus. The company received a big boost from car sales, up 57 percent, while light-truck demand increased 33 percent.
General Motors' second-quarter deliveries tallied 688,236. Volume rose 31 percent at Chevrolet, 50 percent at GMC, 86 percent at Buick and 55 percent at Cadillac. Still, Toyota Motor topped GM, the market leader for decades, in the second quarter by 5,116 cars and light trucks, though GM still leads year to date.
GM, which has idled multiple North American assembly plants this year because of the global microchip shortage, said it ended June with 211,974 cars and light trucks in inventory, down 37 percent from the end of the first quarter.
Toyota said it finished June with 161,120 cars and light trucks on hand, a drop of 38 percent from the end March and a decline of 41 percent at the end of June 2020.
At Stellantis, every brand but Fiat posted a gain in the second quarter, with volume up 19 percent at Jeep, 47 percent at Ram, 36 percent at Chrysler and 42 percent at Dodge. The automaker said retail sales rose 27 percent during the latest period, with fleet accounting for 12 percent of volume, or about 58,237 units.
At Nissan Motor, quarterly deliveries were spurred by a 74 percent gain at the Nissan division. Volume increased 11 percent at Infiniti. Nissan Motor received a bigger lift from car demand -- up 76 percent -- compared with light trucks, up 64 percent, during the latest three-month period.
June sales rose 45 percent to a monthly record of 72,465 at Hyundai, while deliveries jumped 43 percent to a June high of 68,486 at Kia. At Genesis, sales advanced 184 percent.
The three Hyundai Motor Group brands are benefiting from new and redesigned crossovers and other light trucks.
At Kia, light trucks accounted for 64 percent of all U.S. sales in the first half while crossovers now represent 55 percent of Genesis volume.
Kia said U.S. dealers ended June with a roughly 15-day supply of vehicles. While the production pipeline is in-line with its annual plan, Kia expects sales to remain brisk and inventory to be tight over the next several months, a spokesman said.
Hyundai's retail volume rose 36 percent to a June record of 66,765. The company said it ended the month with 67,992 cars and light trucks in dealer inventory, down 25 percent from 91,249 at the start of the month.
Randy Parker, senior vice president for national sales at Hyundai Motor America, said close collaboration with dealers and manufacturing and supply chain partners has allowed the company to "successfully manage extraordinary consumer demand."
Subaru said June deliveries fell 20 percent while second-quarter sales still gained 18 percent. The automaker blamed the dip last month on low stockpiles caused by the microchip shortage.
“Given our inventory at this time, we were pleased with the June sales results our nimble retailers worked hard to deliver, and we thank them for their efforts,” Subaru of America CEO Tom Doll said in a statement.
Second-quarter volume rose 72 percent at the VW brand, 73 percent at Mazda and 106 percent at Mitsubishi.
Among luxury brands, BMW overtook Mercedes to lead in first-half sales.
Analysts at J.D. Power, LMC, Cox Automotive and TrueCar say U.S. light-vehicle sales were forecast to rise 16 percent to 20 percent or more in June from the year ago period, when the pandemic was still hobbling economic activity, though the sales pace cooled considerably from early and mid-spring on severe inventory shortages.
The rate of industry sales outpaced the replacement rate in March, April and May, and possibly June, Cox Automotive estimates. While the economy continues to recover from the pandemic, analysts say tailwinds from the latest round of government stimulus spending will slowly fade after peaking in the spring.
Many dealers say showroom traffic slowed in the closing days of June as new car and light-truck supplies continued to dwindle.
IHS Markit analyst Chris Hopson said while inventory pressures are being felt industry-wide and will slowly improve in the second half, ”there won’t be much relief realized in July or August.”
Even amid slumping stockpiles, some automakers continued to actively market new cars and light trucks last month -- a sign the severe semiconductor shortage, among other supply disruptions, has affected automakers to different degrees.
Hyundai pitched lease deals on the redesigned Tucson and Chevrolet dangled similar offers on the Equinox. Toyota advertised the RAV4 and Highlander crossovers, despite tight supplies in some markets. On the other hand, Ford Motor, hampered by falling stockpiles of key models such as the F-Series pickup, continued to offer $1,000 off on new-vehicle orders that will be delivered at a later date.