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Another disappointing month for Detroit

General Motors Corp. said Tuesday its U.S. sales plunged 21.3 percent in last month, joining other big U.S. automakers in reporting disappointing sales for the month of June.
Toyota’s passenger car segment recorded its best-ever June sales.
Toyota’s passenger car segment recorded its best-ever June sales.Toyota
/ Source: The Associated Press

General Motors Corp. said Tuesday its U.S. sales plunged 21.3 percent in last month, joining other big U.S. automakers in reporting disappointing sales for the month of June.

Earlier, Ford said its sales dropped 8.1 percent in June from a year ago, while German automaker DaimlerChrysler AG said its U.S. Chrysler Group saw sales slide 1.8 percent.

However, Japanese automakers had better news. Nissan’s U.S. sales jumped 22.7 percent in June, while fellow Asian automaker Toyota said its U.S. sales rose 10.2 percent, giving it record sales in the second quarter. Despite Toyota’s gain, it was edged out for the month as the No. 2 U.S. auto seller by Ford.

GM attributed its sales decline to a cutback in fleet sales to daily rental companies, a “soft industry” and lower incentive spending. GM said it sold 320,668 passenger vehicles in June, compared with 407,513 during the same period last year. The declines for GM and Ford came as they continued to wean themselves from low-profit sales to rental car companies.

“Given the planned reduction in daily rental sales, we expected June would be a tough comparison to a year ago,” Mark LaNeve, GM’s vice president of North American sales, service and marketing, said in a statement. “Our retail performance for the month was also below the solid running rate we’ve experienced for the first half of the year, which we attribute to a soft industry and lower incentive spending than our competitors.”

Toyota Motor Corp. said it sold 245,739 Toyota and Lexus vehicles in the U.S. in June, compared with 223,018 a year ago. For the first half of the year, it sold 725,219 vehicles.

Toyota-brand passenger cars recorded best-ever June sales of 128,239, an 8.9 percent increase over the same period last year. It was led by the Camry, with June sales of 46,630, up 12.5 percent over the same period last year.

Light-truck sales were up 11.9 percent, led by the redesigned Tundra full-size pickup.

“Tundra really hit its stride this month, posting a record sales pace,” Jim Lentz, executive vice president of Toyota’s U.S. division, said in a statement. “In a short five months, the new truck’s earned its stripes with both loyal Toyota owners and those new to the brand.”

Ford Motor Co. sold 246,415 vehicles in the U.S. last month including its U.S. and European brands compared with 268,179 during the same period last year.

The company said sales of its F-Series pickup slipped 0.5 percent. But its Focus small car rose 20 percent. Overall, Ford saw its car sales drop 24.6 percent, while truck sales rose 2.9 percent.

Ford reported daily rental sales were down 39 percent compared with a year ago. In the first half of the year, rental sales dropped 30 percent.

Ford has continued toward its goal of reducing rental car sales by 135,000 vehicles in 2007 from 2006 levels, dropping such sales by 89,000 during the first half of the year and 22,000 in the month of June.

“It more than accounts for the decline in Ford sales this month,” said George Pipas, Ford’s top sales analyst.

DaimlerChrysler sold a total of 202,936 vehicles in the U.S. last month.

Chrysler Group’s passenger vehicle sales, which include the Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge brands, fell 1.4 percent compared with June 2006, while Mercedes sales fell 5.8 percent during the same period.

DaimlerChrysler said Chrysler car sales were up 55 percent because of an ad campaign highlighting fuel efficiency of its models. The company did not break out truck sales, which offset the gain.

Jeep brand sales were up 19 percent, led by the new four-door Wrangler, the company said.

Auto sales statistics show the market was shifting toward gas-thrifty compacts in May in record numbers, and some analysts were expecting that to continue in June with $3-a-gallon gas. Because of the continued homebuilding slump, truck sales were expected to be down overall in June.

Nissan Motor Co.’s sales were boosted by the redesigned version of the Sentra small car, which increased 26.9 percent.

Automotive Web site expected Nissan to have a good month because of the Sentra, introduced to coincide with the spike in gas prices.

The small-car trend was expected to hurt the Detroit Three, which rely more on sport utility vehicles and trucks for sales. Asian and some European automakers have increased incentives on small cars, which also makes them more attractive. estimated Tuesday that the average U.S. automaker incentive was $2,483 per vehicle in June, up 3.9 percent from May but down 5.1 percent from June of last year. Edmunds said only Toyota and Honda Motor Co., among the big automakers, had higher incentives than last year.

The Associated Press reports unadjusted 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 adjusted for sales days, which last month was 27 and in June 2006 was 26.