June auto sales slowing over latest downturn?


US auto sales stalled in June amid fears that the fragile economic recovery is sputtering, industry data showed Thursday. “We’ve talked a lot about recovery but it doesn’t seem to be going in that direction,” said Jessica Caldwell, a senior industry analyst at Edmunds.com. “Consumers are waiting for a deal, otherwise they don’t want to buy.”

Total light vehicle sales rose 14.4% from the depressed levels of June 2009 when the industry was reeling from bankruptcies at General Motors and Chrysler and consumers waited for the launch of the cash for clunkers incentive program, reports AFP.

But sales were down 10.8% from May’s incentive-fueled performance at 983,738 vehicles. That equates to the lowest seasonally adjusted annualized rate since February: just 11.08 million units, according to Autodata.

Sales for the first half of the year were up 16.7% at 4.8 million vehicles. “I think it’s pretty clear that as we reach the mid-point of 2010, the market remains very challenging and the recovery continues to be at a very gradual and modest pace,” said Bob Carter, group vice president in charge of the Toyota Division.

Carter said Toyota is “concerned” about the lack of growth, but is still “confident” that the market will pick up in the second half of the year, and has maintained its forecast of 11.5 million units sold in 2010.

Toyota sales have taken a significant hit this year from a series of mass safety recalls which undermined its once stellar reputation. Its sales in June were up a weak 6.8% to 140,604 while sales for the first half of the year were up 10.6% to 846,542 vehicles from the depressed 2009 levels. Its market share slipped a point to 14.3% in June and 0.9 points to 15.1% for the first six months of the year, according to Autodata.

Ford managed to increase its market share by 1.5 points to 17% for the first six months of the year with a modest 0.2 point gain to 17.4% in June. Its sales were rose 13.3% to 170,900 units in June while sales for the first half of the year were up 28% at 954,745 vehicles. That was the biggest first half sales increase Ford has posted since 1984, said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president for US sales. “New products continue to drive Ford’s success,” Czubay said. “Ford and its dealers continue to offer customers the strongest value proposition — leading fuel economy, quality and resale value on a wide range of vehicles. That’s why our business is growing.”

GM, which is set to mark the first anniversary of its emergence from bankruptcy and has slashed its brands offerings in half, saw its share slip 0.4 points to 19.8% in June and 19.2% for the first six months of the year.

“We’re satisfied with our company’s direction,” Stephen Carlisle, GM’s vice president for global product planning, said.

June’s modest sales growth of 10.7% to 195,380 vehicles can be attributed to an expected drop in fleet sales, he said, and the company is benefiting from strong demand for its new products.

Chrysler outperformed its rivals with a 35% increase in June US sales to 92,482 vehicles, boosting its market share 1.5 points to 9.4%. Sales for the first half of the year were up 12% at 527,219 vehicles but its share was down 0.4 points at 9.4%.

The gain “shows that we continue to build on our sales momentum,” Fred Diaz, Chrysler’s lead executive for US sales, said in a statement. “Consumer buzz is building tremendously with the arrival of our all-new Jeep Grand Cherokee in dealerships now, as well as the continuing accolades for our new Ram heavy-duty pickup trucks.”

Hyundai continued to post solid growth with a 35% gain in June to 51,205 vehicles as its share rose 0.8 points to 5.2%. Sales for the first six months of the year were up 25% at 255,782.

Honda posted a modest 6.2% gain in June to 106,627 vehicles as its share slipped 0.9 points to 10.8%. Sales for the year to date were up 11.9% at 530,778 as share slipped 0.4 points to 10.6%.

Nissan’s growth slowed to 6.8% in June with 64,570 vehicles sold as its share slipped 0.2 points to 6.6%, but its sales for the first half of the year were up 26.6% at 347,744 with share rising 0.6 points to 7.8%.