U.S. auto sales continue to rocket forward and now are running at a level near that of 2007, when the industry and the economy were riding high.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Chrysler Group LLC and Ford Motor Co. both reported 11% sales gains for July, while General Motors Co.’s sales were up 16% from a year earlier. Other automakers are reporting sales throughout the day.
The auto sector has been the most consistently positive area of the U.S. economy for the past several years. The companies have added hundreds of thousands of jobs as demand rises off a very low sales base in 2009. New car sales in July were forecast to rise 16% by Kelly Blue Book, enough to bring the seasonally adjusted annualized sales rate to 15.8 million units.
Now auto companies are getting a boost from the housing and energy sectors. Pickup truck sales, which are tightly related to new housing starts, have jumped this year. GM said July sales of its full-size GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado pickups were up 44% from a year earlier. Ford’s F-series pickup sales were up 23%, while Chrysler’s Ram pickup notched a 31% gain.
“For GM, July was the most well-balanced month of the year from a retail sales standpoint: trucks were hot, but so were small cars and family vehicles,” said Kurt McNeil, vice president, U.S. sales operations, in a statement.
These high-margin and revenue trucks helped Ford, Chrysler and GM post strong North American earnings for the second quarter, countering weakness in Europe.
GM sales rose to 234,071 from 189,119 in July of last year. Ford’s light-vehicle sales, which exclude heavy trucks, climbed to 193,080 from 173,482. Chrysler sales increased to 140,102 from 126,089. Nissan Motor Co. said its U.S. sales rose 11% in July to 109,041 units, its highest total for July.
Chrysler’s July success extended the company’s streak of year-over-year gains to 40 months, mostly driven by truck sales. Jeep sales rose only 2%, as it continued to take a hit from having few Jeep Liberty sport-utility vehicles to sell. The company stopped making the Liberty last August, and its replacement, the all-new Jeep Cherokee, doesn’t go on sale until September.