(Adds analyst comment, final annual sales rate figure, luxury
By Bernie Woodall, Ben Klayman and Paul Lienert
DETROIT Aug 1 Ford Motor Co and Toyota
Motor Corp posted stronger-than-expected growth in U.S.
auto sales in July but most manufacturers on Friday reported
gains below expectations as several months of strong demand
pushed optimism too high.
Ford's sales were up 10 percent at 212,236, with Toyota's up
12 percent at 215,802 due to strong demand for their SUVs as
well as offering larger discounts.
Industry sales were up 9 percent from last year to 1,433,016
vehicles, but that still fell short of the 11 percent gain
analysts polled by Reuters had expected.
"Given the strength we saw over the last several months, the
industry (growth) came back down at a little bit of a quicker
pace than perhaps we had originally anticipated," said Alec
Gutierrez, analyst with industry research firm Kelley Blue Book.
"I wouldn't say the industry missed the mark too egregiously."
Toyota was the No. 2 seller in July, edging past Ford,
which had held that spot for the first half of this year and for
2013 overall. General Motors Co remained in top place.
Incentives played a strong role in July sales.
Honda Motor Co was the only one of the top car
companies to cut incentives from June to July, research firm
J.D. Power said. Honda's July sales tumbled 8 percent to
Average industry discounts last month rose slightly to just
over $3,000 per vehicle, with Ford incentives averaging close to
$3,919. Industry incentives were the highest since 2010, said
Larry Dominique, president of research firm ALG.
GM, Nissan Motor Co, Chrysler Group LLC
and the Hyundai-Kia Group all reported higher July
sales that nonetheless failed to meet analysts' expectations.
The sales were Hyundai's best for July ever, while GM, Ford and
Chrysler saw their strongest results for the month since before
the 2008 recession.
GM said July sales were up 9 percent at 256,160. Also
reporting increases were Chrysler, up 20 percent at 167,667;
Nissan, up 11 percent at 121,452; and Hyundai-Kia, up 4 percent
The Volkswagen Group, which includes Audi and Porsche, said
sales fell 6 percent to 49,469.
Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas said growth slowed further
than expected as the annualized sales rate in the month fell to
16.48 million vehicles according to research firm Autodata, from
17 million in June. Economists polled by Thomson Reuters had
expected the annualized rate in July to ease slightly to 16.7
With generous credit terms drawing buyers to more expensive
vehicles, transaction prices in July remained firm, averaging
$32,556 per vehicle, KBB said.
Ford said average prices on its full-size F-Series pickups
topped $40,000, while GM's Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra's
average prices were close to $39,000.
Sales growth of full-size pickup trucks, a bellwether for
the U.S. economy, slowed in July.
Sales of Ford's best-selling F-Series rose 5 percent to
63,240 vehicles. GM's full-size Silverado had flat sales at
42,097, while the Sierra was up 5 percent to 17,488. Chrysler's
Ram pickup climbed 14 percent to 35,621.
In the luxury segment, Toyota's Lexus overtook Mercedes
and BMW for the sales crown in July. Lexus
sold 27,333 vehicles to 27,192 for Mercedes and 26,409 for BMW.
It was the first time Lexus outsold its German rivals since
August 2013, KBB said.
Gains in U.S. auto sales have been stronger than the overall
economy since the recession. Still, the monthly figures provide
an early glimpse into consumer spending.
Auto sales dropped to a low of 10.4 million vehicles in 2009
and have risen steadily since, in part because of easier credit
and loans of up to 84 months. They reached 15.6
million last year.
(Editing by Mark Potter, Lisa Von Ahn and Lisa Shumaker)