As diesel scandal fades, VW’s June sales outpace rest of auto industry

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Volkswagen’s sales in the US continued to rebound in June as the diesel scandal slipped into its rear-view mirror and the company led carmakers with a 15-percent surge over a year ago.

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“People have short memories, and we’re very forgiving,” said Michael Harley, Kelley Blue Book’s group managing editor.

Helped by selling 2,413 of the new Chattanooga-made Atlas sport utility vehicle in its first full month in the market, Volkswagen of America outpaced percentage gains by Subaru, Toyota and Honda in June. The “Detroit 3” automakers each posted drops in June sales compared to a year ago.

While the US auto industry hit a record 17.55 million new vehicles sold in 2016, sales have cooled this year. That’s largely because people who delayed car and truck purchases in the years since the Great Recession have bought new ones, said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of analysis for Edmunds.com.

“We’re kind of at the point where we don’t have a boost from that,” she said.

Automakers with assembly plants in Tennessee in addition to VW posted mixed results in June. General Motors Co. reported sales fell 5 percent to 243,155 vehicles. Nissan Motor Co. sold 143,328 vehicles, or 2 percent more than the prior year.

Meanwhile, Ford Motor Co. saw a 5.1 percent dip to 227,979 vehicles last month. Fiat Chrysler reported a 7.4 percent drop.

Subaru of America continued its winning streak with an 11.7 percent gain.

Volkswagen’s new Golf SportWagen, viewed as a Subaru fighter, reached sales of 2,442 in the month and powered the Golf family to a 27.7 percent increase, figures show.

But sales of the Chattanooga- made Passat fell 12.1 percent in June to 5,267 amid softness in the sedan market.

Harley said the Passat is competing against a new Toyota Camry while there’s another Honda Accord version coming.

He said he expects Atlas sales to grow, noting it’s just trickling into showrooms countrywide.

“I’m in Southern California and we’re only seeing a few here and there,” Harley said. “I think it will turn out to be a best-seller.”

Buyers are continuing to purchase SUVs and trucks and shunning cars.

Sales of Toyota’s Camry, normally the top-selling non-pick-up truck in the US, fell nearly 10 percent in June. But Ford’s F-Series pickup, the top-selling vehicle in America, rose nearly 10 percent.

The shift is good news for companies that rely heavily on pick-up trucks and SUVs such as Ford, GM and Fiat Chrysler.

Mark LaNeve, Ford’s vice president of sales, said even though Ford’s retail sales to individual customers were down 1 percent in the first half of the year, its revenue will be up because of strong sales of loaded-out pick-up trucks.

The shift won’t be such good news for brands such as Hyundai, which is heavily dependent on car sales. Sales of Hyundai’s Elantra compact car, normally among the brand’s top-selling vehicles, fell more than 40 percent to just over 13,000. A year ago, Hyundai set a sales record for the month of June.

CHATTANOOGA TIMES/FREE PRESS (TENNESSEE)/TNS

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