By Jeff Gilbert

DETROIT — (WWJ) After some softness in May, car and truck sales roared back to life in June, surprising analysts.

“I think that it says we’re still plugging along,” says senior analyst Jessica Caldwell. “We’re still feeling comfortable to buy cars, despite what’s going on in the rest of the world.”

INTERVIEW: Jessica Caldwell,

All three domestic car companies outperformed analyst expectations. Chrysler posted a 20 percent sales increase, GM 16 percent and Ford 7 percent.

INTERVIEW: Jesse Toprak,

Lead by Toyota’s 60 percent sales increase, Japanese carmakers bounced back from last year’s earthquake. Honda was up 49 percent. Nissan, 28 percent.

Ford analyst Erich Merkel said those who expected a weak June forecast didn’t take into account the impact of Independence Day

“The month of June finished out very strong for the industry.”

Ford saw strong sales of the F-150, Edge and Explorer. And it was the best month ever for the small Escape SUV, which is transitioning into a new model.

“June was a mix,” said Merkel. “Forty percent of our sales in June were of the new Escape, making the 2012 Escape about sixty percent of the mix.”

Jesse Toprak, who’s a vice president with says stronger truck sales, coincided with falling gasoline prices.

“When we look at what kind of vehicles sold in June, we saw that small cars actually struggled somewhat,” he said. “Whereas, SUV’s and trucks posted better than expected results.”

Some small cars did particularly well. The Fiat 500 set a new record, and Chrysler has high expectations for a brand new compact.

“Production of our all new 2012 Dodge compact Dart has begun,” said Chrysler spokesman Ralph Kisiel. “In fact, the first Dart’s are starting to arrive in showrooms.”

GM’s 16 percent sales increase included double digit improvements in all four brands.

“It was actually our highest sales month since September of 2008,” said sales operations vice president Kurt McNeil.

McNeil says the economy continues to show some signs of life.

“There is some life out there, housing fuel prices, etc, availability of consumer credit.”

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Twitter: @jefferygilbert


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