Automakers post major drops in sales

Ford down 29.5%; GM holds off Toyota; Honda bucks trends

With gasoline prices at record highs and consumer confidence at record lows, U.S. auto sales declined sharply in June, but General Motors still managed to outsell Toyota during the month.

By the end of June 2008, gas prices were up almost 40 percent from a year earlier.

That hurt automakers reliant on trucks and SUVs. It also gave a boost to Honda, which doesn’t have much exposure to low-mpg vehicles. Honda’s June sales increased 1.1 percent, to 142,539. Its year-to-date sales increased 4.1 percent to 798,358.

Still hanging on

General Motors was able to hang on to its position as the country’s largest automaker by sales. It sold 262,329 light vehicles in June, 18.2 percent fewer than last year. Toyota Motor Corp., whose sales sank 21.4 percent, sold 193,234.

GM’s sales are down 16.3 percent for the first half of the year to 1,589,235. Toyota’s year-to-date sales are down 6.8 percent to 1,240,085.

GM got a large boost from its 72-hour sale during the last week in June. Dealers told Automotive News that the discounts led to a huge jump in vehicle sales.

Ford sinks

Ford Motor Co. sales were down 29.5 percent in June compared to June 2007. It sold 173,462 vehicles last month. Ford sales were down 14.5 percent in the first half of 2008 compared to last year.

Ford sold 1,172,521 vehicles in the first half of 2008. Ford figures in this story include Jaguar and Land Rover sales from prior periods and are not adjusted for sales days. Ford’s sale of the brands to Tata Motors closed June 1.

Without Jaguar and Land Rover taken into account, Ford sales decreased 28.1 percent in June to 174,091. On a year-to-date basis, they decreased 14.3 percent to 1,155,241, excluding Jaguar and Land Rover.

“Consumer fundamentals and consumer confidence deteriorated as the first half unfolded,” said Jim Farley, Ford’s vice president for marketing and communications, in a statement. “The economy enters the second half of the year with a notable absence of momentum and a high degree of uncertainty.”

Large declines

The huge increase in gas prices hit sales of large vehicles the hardest. The average price of a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline rose 2 percent last month. Gas is up 38.2 percent from a year ago.

Ford’s SUV sales declined 55.0 percent in June. They were down 34.2 percent in the first half of the year compared to the first six months of 2007. June sales of Ford’s once-bestselling F-Series pickup trucks dropped 40.5 percent. Sales of the Expedition were down 59.8 percent, while sales of the Explorer dropped 52.0 percent.

Sales of Toyota’s light trucks fell 31.1 percent in June, to 61,268. Its Tundra pickup saw sales decline 47.0 percent in June. Tundra sales were down 7.0 percent year to date. Toyota sold 9,597 units of its most popular SUV, the RAV4, in June–26.4 percent fewer than last year.

GM’s light truck sales declined 16.0 percent–less than its car sales. It managed to eke out a 0.1 percent gain in sales of its Chevrolet Suburban, to 5,549 units sold in June. Sales of the GMC Silverado pickup truck fell by 23.7 percent in June, to 36,939. Overall, GM’s full-size pickup sales were down 25.0 percent in June and 26.5 percent year-to-date.

It appears GM’s relative success with light trucks in June was due in large part to aggressive discounting. Light truck sales made up 58.3 percent of GM’s sales in June 2008, 1.5 percentage points more than in June 2007. GM’s cars are still doing better year to date, having had their sales decline only 9.3 percent compared to 20.9 percent for light trucks.

Small gains

Small cars saw sales increases in June.

Ford’s Fusion sedan did well in June. It was the brand’s only model that posted a sales increase in June compared to a year ago, rising 18.4 percent. On a year-to-date basis, Fusion sales increased 11.7 percent. Ford’s total car sales were down 12.0 percent from June 2007, but up 0.1 percent in the first half of this year from the first half of 2007.

The Focus also remains a bright spot for Ford. Its sales were down 5.5 percent in June compared to a year ago, but they were up 27.6 percent year-to-date.

The Mercury Milan and Volvo’s V70 and C70 were the only other Ford models that posted sales increases in June.

GM’s Chevrolet Malibu and Cobalt both had strong months. Sales of the Malibu increased 73.4 percent to 13,650. Sales of the Cobalt increased 21.6 percent to 20,888.

Volkswagen of America Inc. said its sales increased 0.3 percent in June from a year ago, to 23,208 vehicles. It was VW’s best sales month since August 2006.

Sales of the Beetle increased 8.5 percent and the convertible Eos’s sales rose 14 percent. VW’s Touareg SUV also did well. Its sales rose 8.5 percent. Sales of VW’s most popular model, the Jetta, were down 8.5 percent, to 8,973. VW sales were up 0.6 percent for the first half of 2008 compared to the first half of 2007.

Luxury Mixed

Porsche Cars North America, Inc.’s U.S. sales declined 19 percent in June from a year ago. It sold 2,650 units in June. Its sales were down 15.5 percent on a year-to-date basis, to 15,086.

Mercedes-Benz USA sales were flat in June. It sold 19,576 vehicles, down 0.1 percent. For the first half of the year, sales are up 0.9 percent to 119,279.

GM’s Saab division sales were miserable. They fell 57.1 percent in June, to 1,872. Worse still was GM’s Hummer division, which it is reportedly looking to sell. Hummer sales were down 59.3 percent in June, to 2,072.

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