The auto industry came off a June that saw the best sales rate since 2007, and the momentum continued through July. Toyota had its best July since 2008; GM had its best July since 2007. Chrysler and Ford had their best July since 2006. Honda sales, up 20.9%, represented the best July since 2006, and Nissan and Hyundai-Kia had their best July ever. With the top seven automakers reporting numbers, sales are up 13.6%.
The 10 best-sellers changed little, with one car — the Ford Escape — dropping off the charts. The Toyota Corolla, whose 2014 redesign is waiting in the wings, replaced it.
A gallon of regular unleaded gained 15 cents in July, according to AAA, but small, fuel-efficient cars had a mixed month. The outgoing Corolla stayed flat, but rival Honda Civic gained nearly 30%. The Toyota Prius hybrid — ever the indicator of shoppers’ flight to fuel efficiency — gained a stunning 40% over an already-strong July 2012, mostly on the strength of the original Prius, which had a slight incentive versus a year ago. The Chevrolet Cruze, meanwhile, piled on 70.2% in sales versus a slow July 2012 (sales were down 39.3% that month) thanks to higher year-over-year incentives on the compact sedan — and despite much lower dealer supply. The Ford Focus, meanwhile, stayed flat despite bigger incentives this year.
See the theme? Cash and financing incentives rose in meaningful levels on five of July’s top 20 sellers versus year-ago levels; they fell on four. It goes to illustrate average discounts, which continue their creep upward. The average car had 14.5% in total discounts — from dealer and factory cash rebates to discount financing and no-charge options — in July, according to CNW Marketing Research. That’s up from 13.3% in total discounts a year ago, and it represents the fifth consecutive month of rising incentives. Rising MSRPs have offset the climb, and the resulting transaction prices underline why two of Detroit’s three automakers saw increases in their latest quarterly profits: Automakers continue to sell cars at higher prices, and shoppers are increasingly willing to pay for them. The average new car in July sold for $32,676, up $493 over July 2012, according to CNW, and while used-car prices have begun to ebb, CNW says used-car sales are softening, too.
What about pickup trucks? A June report from CNW says contractors — tradespeople, builders and the like — accounted for the majority of pickup sales for the first time since the 1980s. Housing starts, which broke an annualized rate of 1 million units in March (the highest since mid-2008) have fallen below the mark since then. Truck buyers seem to care little, however. Sales for full-size pickups increased 29% in July, outpacing year-to-date gains of 22.6%. A big chunk of that comes from GM’s Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, which combined for a 46.4% July gain. Light-duty redesigns for both trucks are in good supply, accounting for some 35% of all Cars.com new inventory for both trucks’ 1500 models.
That means the Ford F-Series, up 22.6%, continues to hold a commanding lead among July’s top 10.