Robust demand for pickups and SUVs pushed up U.S. auto sales in June but the growth fell short of estimates as General Motors (>> General Motors Company), Toyota Motor Corp (>> Toyota Motor Corp) and Volkswagen (>> Volkswagen AG) sold fewer vehicles. Estimates from major automakers backed analysts’ projection that the U.S. industry has peaked in 2015, when a record 17.47 million vehicles were sold.
"With about 77 percent of the market reporting, we calculate June U.S. light vehicle industry (annualized rate) is tracking to 16.9 million," RBC Capital Markets analyst Joseph Spak wrote in a note. He said the consensus estimate was 17.2 million.
Toyota said it estimated the annualized selling rate under 17 million. GM pointed to 17 million while Ford put its estimate in the "low to mid 17 million range". Toyota reported a 5.6 percent fall in its June sales to 198,257 vehicles, primarily due to lower sales of its luxury sedans, despite having an extra selling day.
GM, the biggest U.S. automaker, said its sales fell 1.6 percent to 255,210 vehicles in June due to lower sales of Buick and GMC vehicles as the company cut lower-margin sales to U.S. rental car fleets.
GM Chief Economist Mustafa Mohatarem said historically low interest rates, stable fuel prices, rising wages and near-full employment would drive strong auto sales in the second half.
Volkswagen of America sales fell 21.8 percent to 23,809.
PICKUPS, SUVs LEAD
Nissan Group (>> Nissan Motor Co Ltd) stood out with a 13 percent rise in June sales to 140,553 as demand rose for its Frontier pickups and Rogue crossover SUVs.
Ford Motor Co (>> Ford Motor Company) sales rose 6.4 percent as it sold more trucks, while higher demand for the Jeep brand pushed Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (>> Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV) <FCAU.N> sales 7 percent.
Honda Motor Co (>> Honda Motor Co Ltd) reported a 3.2 percent in sales, helped by strong demand for both its cars and light trucks.
Marketing research firm J.D. Power and LMC Automotive has said it expects U.S. light vehicle sales for June to rise 5 percent to 1.55 million.
When 12 companies reported, the total sales growth stood at just 2 percent.
Ford, which sold 240,109 vehicles in June, projected total industry sales, including medium and heavy trucks, of 1.56 million. Ford was helped by higher demand for its trucks.
"Consumer demand for Ford SUVs also continues to surge to all-time highs," Ford Vice President Mark LaNeve said.
(Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Don Sebastian)
By Ankit Ajmera