U.S. light-vehicle sales, fueled by strong truck volume at Nissan, Fiat Chrysler, Honda and Toyota, rose 3.9 percent last month as the industry continued to climb toward one of its biggest sales years ever.
The seasonally-adjusted sales rate came in at 17.16 million, slightly below forecasts, and down from May’s 17.78 million rate, but higher than the 16.91 million pace set in June 2014.
It was the industry’s best first half in a decade and many analysts and automakers predicted an even stronger finish to the year.
“People feel good about their jobs and the direction the economy as a whole is taking,” said Kurt McNeil, vice president of sales operations at General Motors.
U.S. sales, fueled by low gasoline prices, rising employment and favorable credit, are on track to hit 17 million this year for the first time since 2001 — and only the third year ever.
Deliveries have advanced 4.4 percent to 8.523 million through June. Through May, volume had climbed 4.5 percent to 7.05 million cars and light trucks.
Overall, light-truck sales rose 11 percent to nearly 800,000 vehicles last month, while car deliveries slipped 3.6 percent to 677,411.
Prices and profits are also rising along with deliveries. The average vehicle sold for $33,340 last month, an increase of 2.5 percent from a year ago, Kelley Blue Book said.
“There’s a lot of momentum in the market,” Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president, said in a conference call. “Some of the economic data on consumer confidence is very strong and interest rates remain very affordable.”
Nissan Motor Co. chalked up a 13 percent gain from a year earlier, boosted by the Rogue and other crossovers. FCA stretched its streak of monthly increases to 63 with an 8.2 percent advance.
Honda Motor Co. volume rose 4.2 percent on an 18 percent jump in light trucks. The Honda brand, aided by the CR-V, Odyssey, redesigned Pilot and all-new HR-V, set a June record with truck sales of 57,667, a gain of 18 percent. Acura surged 39 percent.
“Our SUV lineup is the strongest it has ever been, and it was already in very good shape,” said Jeff Conrad, Honda Division senior vice president and general manager.
At Toyota Motor Corp., June volume rose 4.1 percent led by strong Toyota Tacoma, RAV4 and Highlander sales, and an 11 percent rise in Lexus deliveries. Overall, truck sales last month rose 18 percent to 102,039 vehicles at the Toyota division and 25 percent to 13,038 at Lexus.
“Light trucks have boosted the industry to its best first half since 2005,” said Toyota’s Bill Fay.
Ford Motor Co.’s 1.5 percent rise marked just its second advance in five months.
GM, meanwhile, recorded a 3 percent overall decline while noting that its retail sales were up 7 percent. GM blamed its decline on a drop in fleet shipments to daily rental operators.
Buick, Cadillac and Chevrolet were all down while the all-truck GMC brand was up 8 percent.
At Nissan, the namesake brand’s crossover, truck and SUV deliveries rose 30 percent to a June record of 47,883. Overall, Nissan brand volume climbed 13 percent, and Infiniti tallied a 17 percent gain.
Strong sales of the Edge and Explorer utility vehicles helped boost Ford brand sales 1 percent, the automaker said. Lincoln was up 15 percent.
Three of FCA’s five mass-market brands had sales increases during the month, led by Jeep, with a 25 percent rise.
Ram volume edged up 2 percent and Chrysler brand deliveries jumped 28 percent. Sales slid 14 percent at Dodge — their fifth straight double-digit decline — and 30 percent at Fiat.
Sales of the Chrysler 200 surged 153 percent to 18,560, helping drive a 17 percent gain in FCA’s car deliveries. The company’s light-truck volume rose 6 percent.
Subaru’s sales rose 7.2 percent to 44,335 vehicles, extending the company’s gains to 43 consecutive months.
“Select 2016 model year vehicles are beginning to arrive in showrooms and we know this will further fuel our sales growth this summer,” said Jeff Walters, senior vice president of sales for Subaru of America.
At Audi, June sales roe 8.3 percent to 18,262 vehicles, marking the luxury brand’s 54th consecutive month-over-month gain. Audi’s U.S. sales have also risen 68 straight months.
The Volkswagen brand racked up June sales of 30,436 units, a 5.6 percent increase, on higher Golf, Jetta and Tiguan volume. Deliveries rose 3.9 percent to 27,223 vehicles at Mazda.
Hyundai set a June sales record with 67,502 U.S. deliveries. That is less than a 1 percent increase from June 2014 levels. Sales rose 6.9 percent at Kia and 32 percent at Mitsubishi. Volvo’s U.S. deliveries rose by 2 vehicles to 5,985.
Porsche’s U.S. sales rose 2.9 percent in June, led by a 39.6 percent jump in sales for the Macan crossover. Halfway through 2015, with its six-month sales up 9.7 percent to 25,138, Porsche remains on track to this year meet its goal of selling 50,000 vehicles annually in the U.S.
The National Automobile Dealers Association this week increased its forecast for new light-vehicle deliveries in 2015 to 17.17 million from 16.94 million. NADA is also projecting U.S. sales will rise to 17.62 million in 2016, toppling the record of 17.4 million established in 2000.
Steven Szakaly, chief economist for NADA, attributes the bullish forecasts to a “surprising amount of pent-up demand” as well as low interest rates, favorable credit terms and rising employment.
“Looking back at 2009-13, we had four years of subpar demand, with sales either under or well under 16 million. That demand, coupled with an improving economy, will continue to translate into strong new-vehicle sales this year and in 2016,” he said.
“While we’ve had a slower-than-normal recovery from this recession, we are seeing the sixth consecutive year of new light-vehicle sales growth.”
Dealers and automakers, for their part, are offering generous discounts and finance terms across the board to keep the market moving.
Many of the best deals can be found on cars, where demand is weaker as lower gasoline prices have encouraged more consumers to buy light trucks, namely crossovers and pickups. Through June, U.S. car sales are off 1.7 percent while light-truck volume has advanced 10 percent.
The average incentive per new light-vehicle stood at $2,846 in June, up 3.6 percent from June 2014 and 0.4 percent higher than May, TrueCar estimated.
Kia, Hyundai and Nissan hiked average discounts 18 percent or more, to at least $2,461, last month, TrueCar said, while incentives dropped at Fiat Chrysler and Ford.
Edmunds.com, in a report said leasing also continued to drive the market last month, accounting for 28 percent of car sales and a bigger role in deliveries of some trucks.
“Even though trucks are leased at relatively lower rates, small truck leasing is up 34 percent from last June and large truck leasing is up 4 percent year over year,” said Jessica Caldwell, director of industry analysis for Edmunds.