July Auto Sales Provide Cautious Optimism

Car Keys and Money

July auto sales are giving economists reason for cautious optimism about the sluggish economy.

The pace for the month won’t be calculated until later on Wednesday, but the initial indication shows the sales pace coming in at 14.1-14.2 million vehicles.

That pace would be short of the 14.3 million rate through the first half of this year, but it is not below the crucial 14 million mark.

July Sales:

  • GM (down) 6.4%
  • Ford (down) 4 %
  • Toyota (up) 26.1%
  • Chrysler (up ) 13%
  • Nissan (up ) 16.2%
  • Volkswagen (up) 27%

Retail Sales Holding Strong

While GM and Ford both reported overall declines in sales, the two largest automakers in the U.S. both say retail sales at dealerships held up last month. Even more important, transaction prices (the price customers are actually paying) went up last month for a number of automakers. Kurt McNeil, Vice president of U.S. sales for GM says, ”Our average transaction prices are up month over month and our incentive spend is actually down month over month.”

Still, automakers say business is far from robust due to the sluggish recovery in the economy.

While there are bright spots like improving pick-up truck sales (a good indicator of recovery with home starts), dealers are still seeing resistance and caution by many buyers.

“The jobs data is tough, the manufacturing indexes are not positive,” said McNeil. “We definitely continue to see headwinds.”

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- Reported by Phil LeBeau