Ford Motor's sales growth outpaced its rivals from the U.S. and Japan in July, rising 2.3 percent to give the automaker its first year-over-year monthly sales increase since November 2007, thanks in part to the U.S. government "Cash for Clunkers" program.
Ford, whose shares rose as much as 10.75 percent to the highest level since November 2007, said U.S. sales rose to 165,279 vehicles for all of its brands in July, from 161,530 vehicles a year earlier. Click here for real-time Ford quotes.
CNBC.com reports auto sales on an adjusted basis that accounts for the number of selling days in the month.
Sales rose 1.6 percent to 158,838 vehicles in the automaker's core Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands, it said. U.S. sales in its Volvo luxury car unit that is up for sale rose 25.7 percent to 6,441 vehicles, the automaker said.
Ford Chief Sales Analyst George Pipas told CNBC he expects the program to have more than just a temporary effect on the economy.
"This is not going to have only a first-time ... catalyst effect on the economy, but also it ought to be the gift that keeps on giving, not only in terms of lower fuel consumption but lower emissions," Pipas said. "Frankly, I can’t think of a program ever that has been so positive in so many ways across the board, environmentally and economically."
Retail sales for the core Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands rose 9 percent from a year earlier, Ford said.
For its Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands car sales rose 8.7 percent, crossover sales rose 36.9 percent, SUV sales fell 36.1 percent and truck and van sales fell 14.5 percent.
Ford, the only large U.S.-based automaker that has not restructured in bankruptcy with federal funding, also said it was the first of the major manufacturers that sell cars in the United States to report a monthly sales increase this year.
The increase marked Ford's first year-over-year monthly rise since just before the U.S. economic downturn began. U.S. auto industry sales have been tracking at their lowest annualized rates in nearly 30 years so far in 2009.
Ford's increase stood out among automakers that reported monthly sales on Monday.
General Motors said Monday that its July sales fell 19.4 percent from the same month last year. That number marked increase over June's tally, however.
GM , which emerged from bankruptcy last month after the sale of its best assets to a group led by the U.S. Treasury, said U.S. sales fell to 189,443 vehicles in July from 235,184 a year earlier. Retail sales were down only 9 percent from July 2008, but fleet sales were down 47 percent.
GM cut production sharply during the 40-day bankruptcy process and said that in July it produced 102,000 vehicles in North America, down 57 percent from a year earlier.
The automaker also made its first projection of third-quarter production, a figure critical to suppliers. GM said it expects to produce 535,000 vehicles in the third quarter, down 42 percent from the quarter a year earlier.
GM said inventory at the end of July was trimmed by 38 percent from a year before to about 466,000 vehicles in stock, reflecting historically low levels. GM dealers had an average of 76 days' supply at the end of July.
Inventory included 202,000 cars and 264,000 trucks including crossovers, down about 20 percent from the end of June, GM said.
Similarly, Toyota Motor reported an adjusted 11.4 percent sales decline, with 174,872 vehicles sold in July, versus 197,424 units last year. That marked a 27.7 percent increase over June, however.
So far this year, sales at the world's largest automaker are off 34.2 percent to 945,321 units.
Sales at Lexus, Toyota's luxury brand, were off 16.5 percent to 18,872. Volumes at Toyota's namesake brand fell 10.8 percent to 156,355.
The Camry midsize sedan, whose sales fell 19.4 percent to 33,974, was Toyota's best seller for the month. Sales of the third-generation Prius hybrid continued to rally, soaring 29.7 percent to 19,173.
Sales Tallies: Chrysler and Honda
reported a year-over-year sales decline of 9 percent, though the company sold 30 percent more vehicles than it did in June. Honda Motor sold 114,690 vehicles in July, down from 138,744 cars and trucks last year.
Chrysler posted a smaller year-over-year sales drop for July compared with recent months, partially thanks to a late-month boost from the government's Cash for Clunkers program.
Chrysler said its July sales dropped 9.4 percent to 88,900 from the same month last year. But sales were up 30 percent from their June level. So far this year, Chrysler sales are down 42 percent to 560,097 vehicles.
Sales at the automaker's namesake brand fell 21 percent to 16,549 units, while Jeep brand sales dropped 1.9 percent to 22,276 and Dodge sales fell 8.2 percent to 50,075.
Car sales fell 14 percent to 22,109 units, while light truck demand dropped 7.5 percent to 66,791.
American Honda, the No. 2 Japanese carmaker, said Monday its U.S. auto sales in July fell 17.3 percent on lower volumes of its Accord sedan and its trucks and SUVs.
Sales fell to 114,690 units from 138,744 last year. Year to date, Honda sales are down 30.7 percent to 645,468.
Sales at Acura, Honda's luxury line, fell a steeper 32.5 percent. At its Honda namesake line, volumes fell 15.8 percent.
The Civic compact sedan was Honda's top seller, with 30,037 units sold. Honda sold 2,295 of its much-touted Insight hybrid, which was released earlier this year.
The "Cash for Clunkers" program took effect on July 24, a week before the end of the July sales period.
GM Buyouts Fall Short
Also Monday, GM said about 6,000 of its blue-collar workers have taken the latest round of early retirement and buyout offers, but it fell short of the company's goal, meaning more layoffs are likely.
GM has about 54,000 factory workers and wants to end the year with 40,500, a cut of about 13,500. That means that about 7,500 too few workers took the offers, setting the stage for more layoffs.
The automaker announced in June and July that it would close 15 U.S. factories employing about 22,000 workers by end of 2012.
- AP and Reuters contributed to this report.