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U.S. July auto sales top expectations, boosted by SUVs, trucks

08/03/2015 | 10:39am US/Eastern
Fiat Chrysler assembly workers work on partially assembled minivans at the Windsor Assembly Plant in Windsor, Ontario

U.S. auto sales were stronger than expected in July and kept the industry on pace for its best year in a decade, driven by the continuing shift toward sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks.

Ford Motor Co (>> Ford Motor Company) said U.S. auto industry sales of 1.55 million vehicles in July rose 6 percent, which would translate to an annualized rate of about 17.6 million to 17.7 million vehicles.

Analysts had expected a gain of about 3 percent over year-ago industry sales. Auto sales are seen by analysts totaling about 17.1 million vehicles this year, which would be the highest in more than a decade.

Ford said cheaper fuel prices and low interest rates helped boost sales.

Market leaders General Motors Co (>> General Motors Company) and Ford both showed sales gains that were more than double analysts' estimates.

GM had sales of 272,512 vehicles, a rise of 6 percent, and Ford sales were up 5 percent as both benefited from strength in sales of their pickup trucks, the top two selling models in the market.

GM said the average price for its models sold was $33,800, up $530 from a year ago. GM shares edged up 0.2 percent to $31.58.

Ford's F-Series sales alone topped those of all Ford and Lincoln brand sedans.

The F-Series total of 66,288 was up 5 percent. The GM Chevrolet Silverado showed sales of 56,380, up 34 percent.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (>> Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV)<FCHA.MI> sales rose 6 percent and Nissan Motor Co Ltd (>> Nissan Motor Co Ltd) gained 8 percent, also outstripped expectations of analysts.

Each month, auto sales are seen as an early indicator of consumer spending.

Car-buying website TrueCar Inc (>> TrueCar Inc) said a record $47 billion was spent on new-vehicle purchases in July, up 2.l percent from a year earlier.

Ford truck sales rose 5.7 percent, its utility vehicle sales jumped 13.4 percent while sedan sales fell 3.9 percent.

Sales of Ford's SUV Explorer soared 27 percent, and its smaller SUV Escape had a 10 percent increase.

Ford shares rose 0.8 percent to $14.95.

For Fiat Chrysler, trucks and utility vehicles accounted for 74 percent of sales and were 10.4 percent higher than a year earlier, while sedan sales fell 6 percent.

FCA sales were led by a 23 percent increase for Jeep SUVs.

It was the 64th straight month that FCA sales increased on a year-over-year basis. Fiat Chrysler shares were up 3.1 percent to $16.29.

At Nissan, truck and utility vehicle sales rose 23 percent while car sales fell 1 percent. Sales of its Rogue small SUV jumped 51 percent.

Hyundai Motor Co (>> Hyundai Motor Co) said U.S. July sales rose 6 percent to a company record 71,013 vehicles.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

By Bernie Woodall

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