By Jeff Gilbert

DETROIT — (WWJ) July car sales numbers jumping nine percent over last year, with all three domestic companies posting significant gains.

“The auto industry is now back to pre-recessionary levels,” said Ford analyst Erich Merkle.

Ford sales rose 10 percent in July. GM sales were up 9 percent. Chrysler sales again topped the Detroit Three.

“Chrysler Group had a solid July as each brand recorded sales gains on our way to a 20 percent year-over-year increase, our strongest July sales in nine years,” said Reid Bigland, Head of U.S. Sales. “Sales of the all-new Chrysler 200 mid-size sedan continued to increase while our Jeep and Ram Truck brands each turned in double-digit sales gains, helping to lead Chrysler Group to its 52nd-consecutive month of year-over-year sales growth.”

Jeep sales lead the way. The new Cherokee pushed the brand up 40 percent. That was part of a trend seen throughout the industry.

“Crossovers and SUV’s were absolutely on fire,” said GM spokesman Jim Cain.

General Motors new large sport utilities had a strong showing, as did the smaller Buick Encore.

The current SUV sales boom, says analyst Michelle Krebs, is different from the SUV craze of the nineties.

“The vehicles now are built on car platforms, so they handle now, have better fuel economy.”

General Motors sales have been closely watched to see if there’s been any impact from the company’s recalls.

“The consumer actually acknowledges that today’s GM is not the same GM that was making cars that are being recalled,” said Krebs.”

Some dealers say they’ve had customers who come in for recall repairs, and decide to purchase a new car. GM’s Jim Cain says that’s a consequence of treating the customer with respect.

“One of the things we’re trying to do, whether somebody’s bringing in a ten year old car, we’re trying to treat them like they just bought it yesterday.”

Import brands are also expected to report strong sales figures. Nissan says it’s sales are up 11 percent. Toyota sales rose 12 percent.

“Rising consumer confidence, coupled with momentum in the marketplace, boosted auto sales in July,” said Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president and general manager. “Led by an all-time record month for RAV4 and double-digit gains for both Camry and Corolla, Toyota was the number one retail brand.”

Honda sales fell four per cent. Volkswagen, with a lack of new products, saw its sales drop 15 percent.

“We’re going to continue to see them struggle until they have new product, or get more product,” said senior analyst Jessica Caldwell.

Volkswagen recently announced that it will build a new SUV at it’s Chattanooga, Tennessee plant. Caldwell says that’s the type of product the brand needs.

Overall, Caldwell says fleet sales were not a big part of the July picture, making it a very strong retail month.

“A lot of the high numbers that we’ve seen reported today are because just your average consumer is coming into the dealer showroom and leaving with a car.”

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Twitter: @jefferygilbert


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