Chrysler tops Ford, Toyota as GM slips 3% in June

Automakers released U.S. June sales figures on Wednesday, and it was Nissan leading the way with a more than 13 percent increase in sales over last year as crossover SUVs remain the momentum theme in the industry.

Fiat Chrysler U.S. June auto sales rose 8 percent from a year ago, boosted by the continued strength of its Jeep SUV brand, while Toyota and Ford Motor's trailed behind—seeing U.S. auto sales jump 4 and 2 percent, respectively. Separately, GM's June sales slipped 3 percent despite the best June on record for its Chevrolet crossovers.

It was the first time Chrysler has outsold Ford at the retail level, which doesn't include corporate fleets.

All told the U.S. auto sales rate was 17.16 million according to Autodata. It marked the best June for auto sales since 2005, but the four percent growth rate fell about a percent shy of the growth analysts had expected. Truck and SUV sales grew again at a faster pace than sedans, aided by moderately low gasoline prices.

GM and Ford said on Wednesday increases in the average transaction prices for their vehicles, particularly trucks and SUVs, outpaced sales volume growth that fell short of Wall Street expectations. Ford, for example, said prices for its F-series trucks rose 8 percent, or $3,600, while sales volume for the pickup truck line dropped 8.9 percent in June.

Nissan benefited from the growth of its popular crossovers as well, with sales of the Nissan Murano and Rogue jumping nearly 75 percent and 55 percent, respectively, for the month of June.

Sales of Fiat Chrysler's Jeep brand jumped 25 percent in June, led by a 39 percent surge in mid-sized Cherokee sales, the company said on Wednesday.

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Chrysler 200 sedan sales rose 153 percent to 18,560 vehicles. Private industry data reviewed by Reuters showed that in the first half of the year, a large portion of Chrysler 200 sedan sales were to rental agencies.

Sales of the Chrysler brand fell 28 percent, as Town & Country minivan production slowed as the plant where it is made is in transition to a new model.

Toyota handily topped estimates for the month by more than one percent thanks in part to rising momentum from luxury SUV sales.

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"The demand for luxury utility vehicles continues to grow and has helped put Lexus and its dealers on a record sales pace for the year," said Jeff Bracken, Lexus group vice president and general manager. "The new NX compact crossover continues to be one of the hottest new models on the market."

It was a different story for General Motors whose sales fell 3 percent compared to an Edmunds estimate that predicted a fall of just 0.6 percent. GM shares were down 1.1 percent at $32.97 late on Wednesday afternoon. GM gained in truck market share however, led by the success of Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickups.

Reuters contributed to this report.