GM, Ford, Fiat Chrysler sales fall sharply in July as auto industry cools off – USA TODAY
U.S. auto sales were expected to fall sharply in July as plummeting interest in passenger cars undermines the industry, leading to aggressive financing offers and excess inventory.
Analysts at Edmunds.com and Kelley Blue Book projected July industry vehicle sales declines of 6.2% and 5.7%, respectively, compared to a year ago.
In early reporting, General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler sales were down 15.4%, 7.5% and 10.5%, respectively.
Their stocks also took a hit. GM shares were down 2.9% to $34.95, while Ford shares were down 3% to $10.89 at 9:47 a.m.
Although sales remain at respectable levels historically — having set full-year records in 2015 and 2016 — automakers are not selling enough of their popular crossover, sport-utility, and pickup truck models to offset the public’s divorce from sedans.
Sales of mid-size cars and compact sedans were expected to plunge 14.5% and 10.6%, respectively, in July, compared to a year earlier, according to Kelley Blue Book.
Meanwhile, average interest rates on new-vehicle loans hit their lowest level in six months as automakers promote zero-financing offers, according to Edmunds.
And the average length a new vehicle sat on a dealership lot in July was 76 days, a high point for the month since 2009, according to Edmunds.
Still, despite the overall weakness, U.S. auto dealers “had a strong final week” of the month, Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst said in a note to investors. SUV and crossover sales continue to prop up the bottom line for automakers.
Here’s how the major automakers fared in the U.S. in July:
Edmunds projection: -10.8%
Kelley Blue Book projection: -9.1%
Actual results: -15.4%
Three of GM’s four brands posted double-digit percentage sales declines in July. Chevrolet was down 15.3%, Cadillac fell 21.7% and Buick plunged 30.5%, while GMC was 7.3%.
There were few bright spots. The company has been focusing heavily on sales to consumers, but retail sales declined 14% for the month.
GM’s sales to fleet customers, including rental car firms, fell sharply, too.
The Detroit automaker’s passenger cars endured steep declines for the month. The Chevy Spark minicar withered, falling 81.9% to 764 units for the month, while the Chevy Sonic subcompact car declined 47.3% to 2,552.
Edmunds projection: -5%
Kelley Blue Book projection: -6.2%
Actual results: -7.5%
The Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker said its retail sales fell 1% while fleet sales declined 26.4%.
The flagship Ford brand fell 7.7%, while the luxury Lincoln brand declined 2.5%.
Car sales were off 19.4%, including a 12.5% decline for the Ford Fiesta subcompact and a 42.2% decline for the Fusion mid-size car.
Edmunds projection: -7%
Kelley Blue Book projection: -6.9%
Actual results: -10.5%
All of the company’s major brands, except Ram, were down double digits. Jeep was down 12.3%, Chrysler 30.1%, Dodge 11.9% and Fiat 18%. Ram sales were flat.
The company has been making a concerted effort to reduce its reliance on less-profitable fleet sales. Retail sales were down 6%, while fleet sales were down 35%.
Edmunds projection: -3.4%
Kelley Blue Book projection: -4.3%
Actual results: 3.6%
The Japanese automaker soared past expectations for a surprise sales gain. The company’s flagship Toyota brand and luxury Lexus brand were each up 3.6%.
With the strong sales performance, Toyota surpassed Ford in July as the nation’s second-largest automaker for the month, behind only GM.
Leading the way was the red-hot RAV4 crossover, which hit an all-time monthly sales record of 41,804 units, up 31.1% for the month.
Still, Toyota’s passenger cars declined 11.5% for the month, reflecting the general industry trend. Sales of crossovers, pickups and SUVs rose 17.4%.
Edmunds projection: -4.6%
Kelley Blue Book projection: -3.8%
Actual results: -1.2%
The Japanese automaker’s passenger cars continued to display resiliency despite the segment’s struggles. Passenger car sales rose 1.9%, while sales of crossovers, SUVs and pickups fell 4.2%.
The company’s namesake Honda brand was down 1.7%, while the Acura luxury brand was up 3.7%.
Edmunds projection: -1%
Kelley Blue Book projection: -5.6%
Actual results: -3.2%
The Japanese automaker’s crossovers, SUVs and pickup trucks recorded a 5.3% increase, but sales of passenger cars declined 11.2%
The company’s namesake brand fell 4.1%, while the luxury Infiniti lineup increased 9%.
Edmunds projection: -5.2% (VW and Audi brands)
Kelley Blue Book projection: 0% (VW, Audi and Porsche brands)
Actual results: The German automaker’s namesake Volkswagen brand posted a 5.8% sales decline for the month. Its Audi luxury brand was up 2.5%.
Edmunds projection: (not provided)
Kelley Blue Book projection: 3.7%
Actual results: 6.9%
The Japanese automaker’s hot streak continued as its sales surged despite the industry’s downturn. Subaru’s top seller was the Outback, which rose 19.6% to 17,581 units.
Edmunds projection: -10.6%
Kelley Blue Book projection: -11.1%
Actual results: Kia’s sales fell 5.9% for the month. Hyundai’s sales were not yet available.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.