Domestic automakers’ sales slid in June, lashed by higher gas prices and by tough comparisons with last summer’s discount-driven bonanza, the companies said on Monday.
Struggling General Motors Corp. got the worst beating; its sales plunged 25.7 percent last month.
But rising fuel costs were a boon to Toyota Motor Corp., which credited its fuel-efficient lineup for much of its 14.4 percent sales increase over June 2005. Honda Motor Co.’s U.S. sales were flat.
Sales from a year ago slipped 15.5 percent at DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group and 6.8 percent at Ford Motor Co., the companies reported Monday.
Across the industry, sales were down 10.5 percent, with truck sales plummeting 19.4 percent and cars inching up 1.6 percent, according to Autodata Corp. The seasonally adjusted sales rate for June, which shows what total sales would be if they remained at the same rate for the entire year, was 16.3 million vehicles. Automakers sold 17 million vehicles in 2005.
GM had warned that its June sales would be down significantly because of aggressive discounts last summer.
Paul Ballew, GM’s executive director of global market and industry analysis, said comparisons with last year were difficult because of the promotion, which allowed all customers to purchase vehicles at the price given to employees.
“The Employee Discount for Everyone program and the success of that program was probably a once-in-a-decade home run for the industry and certainly for ourselves,” Ballew said in a conference call.
He said this June’s performance was in line with the company’s expectations.
High gas prices cut into sales of pickups and big sport utility vehicles — traditionally the stronger segment at both GM and Ford. GM’s truck sales fell 37 percent in June, while cars were down less than half a percent.
Year-to-date, GM’s sales fell 12.2 percent, including a 13 percent drop for trucks and an 11 percent dip for cars.
At Ford, sales of light trucks plummeted 14.6 percent. But the company saw a bright spot in car sales, which rose 8.6 percent, as demand for new midsize sedans — the Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan and Lincoln Zephyr — remained high.
Sales of truck-based sport utility vehicles have been declining across the industry for four years in a row, but until recently, pickups were relatively immune from the phenomenon, Ford said. However, pickup buyers now appear to be delaying purchases because of the pressure of high fuel costs, said Al Giombetti, president of marketing and sales for Ford, Lincoln and Mercury.
In a statement, Giombetti said the increase in car sales is “cause for optimism because it shows we can win in the industry’s most competitive segment.”
For the first half of the year, Ford’s sales fell 3.8 percent, with truck sales sliding 9.7 percent and car sales rising 7.8 percent.
Toyota, however, continued to gain ground in trucks, selling 4.8 percent more last month than in June 2005. But its biggest gains were in car sales, which climbed 21.9 percent.
Jim Lentz, executive vice president of Toyota’s U.S. division, pointed to a 38.7 percent increase in sales of the Toyota Corolla, one of the most fuel-efficient models, as evidence of the impact of gas prices.
Year-to-date, Toyota’s sales rose 9.8 percent, including a 10.4 percent increase in cars and a 9.1 percent increase in trucks.
Honda’s car sales crept up 3.8 percent, while truck sales fell 5 percent. The company reported increased demand for small cars, including a 3.9 percent increase in sales of the Civic. Demand for the Fit, a new subcompact, continued to outpace supply, Honda said.
Not all the Japanese manufacturers escaped the pain, however. Nissan Motor Co. saw total vehicle sales drop 19 percent.
Chrysler blamed gas prices for its sales decrease, though its biggest drop was in cars, which fell 32.7 percent, compared with a 10 percent drop in truck sales. For the first six months of the year, Chrysler sales were down 4.9 percent, including a 6.5 percent drop in car sales and an 8.4 percent drop in trucks.
Chrysler said it expects an employee pricing program it launched over the weekend, along with its “Ask Dr. Z” ad campaign, featuring DaimlerChrysler Chairman Dieter Zetsche, to boost sales.
Last summer, Chrysler matched GM’s employee discount program, as did Ford.
But GM and Ford have said they will not take that route this year. Instead, GM is offering zero percent financing for up to 72 months on many models through July 5, while Ford is offering it for 60 months on many models and 72 for the Expedition large sport utility vehicle. The Ford offer expires July 31, as does Chrysler’s employee discounts for everyone.
The Associated Press reports unadjusted sales figures, calculating the percentage change in the total number of vehicles sold in one month compared with the same month a year earlier. Some automakers report percentages that are adjusted for the number of sales days in a month.