(Adds final sales results, best rate of sales since July 2006)
By Bernie Woodall and Paul Lienert
DETROIT, July 1 U.S. auto sales hit levels in
June not seen since before the financial crisis that led to the
bankruptcy of two American automakers, posting the best
annualized figures in eight years.
U.S. June sales rose 1.2 percent, beating expectations of a
decline of 3 percent, and the seasonally adjusted annualized
sales rate hit 16.98 million vehicles, the highest since the
July 2006, industry consultant Autodata Corp said.
General Motors Co bucked Wall Street's low
expectations as well as negative publicity over a flood of
safety recalls, reporting a 1 percent rise in U.S. sales in
June. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected
GM's sales to fall about 6 percent.
John Krafcik, president of car shopping site TrueCar.com,
said consumers are suffering from recall "fatigue" and tuning
out the onslaught of bad news from GM and other automakers.
He added that GM's sales remain strong in part because
consumers focus on brand names such as Chevrolet and Buick
rather than the corporate name "General Motors."
Investors also showed faith in GM on Tuesday, sending its
shares up 3 percent a day after the automaker's total for
recalls in the half-year rose to 29 million vehicles.
Chrysler Group, Toyota Motor Corp, Nissan
Motor Co Ltd and Hyundai Motor Co also
reported year-to-year increases. They all topped analysts'
expectations, as did Ford Motor Co. Honda Motor Co Ltd
sales barely missed expectations.
"Sales in the first half of 2014 indicate a steadily
recovering industry, and we expect this pace to increase as we
move into the second part of the year," said Bill Fay, Toyota
Division group vice president and general manager.
Ford sales fell 5 percent to 222,064 vehicles, but the
company still beat the analysts' forecast of 217,007.
Chrysler had a 9 percent gain to 171,086, Toyota rose 3
percent to 201,714 and Nissan was up 5 percent at 109,643.
Combined Hyundai-Kia sales increased 2 percent to 118,051
Honda sales declined 6 percent to 129,023.
U.S. June sales of the Volkswagen AG group,
which includes Audi and Porsche, dropped 8 percent to 49,796.
Ford sales analyst Erich Merkle said the average transaction
prices industry wide for pickup trucks were up more than $3,300
from a year ago. Pickup trucks are critical for the three
domestic automakers because of their high profit margins.
Despite substantial discounts, demand for Ford's full-size
F-series pickups - the best-selling vehicles in the industry -
declined 11 percent to 60,560. The automaker is changing over to
a brand-new version of the F-series for the 2015 model year.
GM's Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups sold a
combined 58,925 in June, up a fraction from a year ago, while
Chrysler's Ram pickup was up 12 percent to 33,149.
Ford said sales of some of its more popular U.S. models
slumped in June, including Fiesta, Taurus, Mustang and Edge.
At GM, key sedans Chevrolet Cruze, Impala and Malibu all had
(Additional reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit. Editing by
Lisa Von Ahn, Matthew Lewis and Andre Grenon)