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July auto sales look strong despite economic jitters

July 26, 2012|By Jerry Hirsch
  • A customer looks over a Ford Motor Co. Escape sport utility vehicle at a dealership in Colma, Calif.
A customer looks over a Ford Motor Co. Escape sport utility vehicle at a dealership… (Bloomberg )

The economic news remains mixed, but that hasn’t slowed car buyers down in July.

With another weekend to go, industry analysts say sales remain comparatively strong and it is consumers who are fueling the industry. No, this isn’t the roaring market of decade ago, but it is healthy by post-recession, sluggish-growth standards.

Market research firm J.D. Power & Associates estimates that new-vehicle retail sales will reach about 969,200 units this month. While that’s a slight dip from June it still represents an 18% gain from a year ago.

“Retail sales got off to a fast start in July, and while they’ve slowed down a bit as the month has progressed, through the first 16 selling days, they’re still up 15.1%, compared to July 2011,” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of global automotive operations at J.D. Power & Associates.  “The positive growth has continued to build, as July is looking strong across most vehicle segments, as well as for many of the major manufacturers.”

Total vehicle sales will reach almost 1.2 million in July – that includes what is sold to car rental companies, commercial customers and government agencies.  That equates to a seasonally adjusted annual sales pace of about 14.1 million.

Auto information company Kelley Blue Book is forecasting new-vehicle sales to hit a 14-million seasonally adjusted annual rate this month.

“Midsize cars remain the top-selling segment in July.  The redesigned Toyota Camry has been a favorite among consumers since launching earlier this year, and we expect the redesigned 2013 Nissan Altima to add further fuel to the fire this month,” said Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst of automotive insights for Kelley Blue Book.  “The segment only stands to push industry sales further later this year when the hotly anticipated redesigns of the Honda Accord, Ford Fusion and Chevrolet Malibu arrive at dealerships.”

Midsize cars, or family sedans, look like they will account for about 19% of all sales, making the category the largest segment of the industry. Compact cars were second at a little more than 13%, Gutierrez said.

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