WASHINGTON: US car sales continued to ebb in June, marking the sixth straight monthly decline, even as appetite for larger SUVs and light trucks persisted, according to industry figures released Monday.
Industry-wide, sales for the month dropped 3 percent from the prior month, and compared to June of last year, according to Autodata figures.
The sales pace amounted to an annual rate of 16.51 million units, seasonally adjusted, down from 16.8 million at this time last year.
“June sales numbers reaffirm we’re in what we call a post-peak phase,” Michelle Krebs, executive analyst at Autotrader, told reporters.
“We still think the market’s on track for a pretty strong year but certainly below the past.”
Sales in 2016 were a record 17.55 million.
General Motors, the country’s largest automaker, and Ford reported total sales fell about five percent for the month, with GM down for the second month in a row.
The US division of Fiat Chrysler fell 7.4 percent for the month
The shifting composition of the market was again clear: midsize vehicle sales fell 18 percent, and compact cars dropped six percent, said Alec Gutierrez of Kelley Blue Book.
But full-size pickups gained four percent and SUVs and crossover vehicles rose as much as 10 percent, Gutierrez told reporters.
GM said sales of SUVs and crossovers skyrocketed by 22 percent, with the Chevrolet Equinox gaining 36 percent and the Traverse SUV up a stunning 71 percent for the month.
Sales ‘cooled off’
Toyota said its luxury Lexus brand fell 5.4 percent in June, but was boosted by the SUV segment.
“The auto industry has cooled off compared to last year’s record-breaking pace,” Jack Hollis, general manager of the Toyota brand, said in a statement.
Still, Gutierrez said with low unemployment, high consumer confidence and equities markets performing well, the shape of the economy pointed to continued strong sales.
Krebs also said automakers were showing “discipline,” easing away from leasing, sub-prime lending, discounts and incentives to boost sales.
“The financial houses of the automakers are in pretty good shape,” she said. “We don’t see any kind of crazy imbalances.”
Japanese automakers eked out sales increases, with Toyota rebounding to post a monthly gain of 2.1 percent, though that still was below the pace of last year.
Nissan also bucked the trend, rising 2.1 percent while Honda gained 0.8 percent over June 2016.
German auto giant Volkswagen, which earlier this year announced the start of a major push into the US market as it emerges from a global emissions scandal, continued to see strong sales, gaining 15 percent for the month.
Volume remained small, however, with just over 27,000 VWs sold.
Meanwhile, electric automaker Tesla sold 3,900 cars for the month, according to Autodata.
The company, which markets its battery-powered cars directly to consumers, also announced quarterly sales on Monday of 22,000 vehicles, up 53 percent over the same period last year. It expects sales to ramp up faster now that it has addressed a backlog in the production of batteries.
The company said it would begin production of the moderately-priced Model 3 this week, with the first deliveries set for July 28.