Pickup truck sales were up 26% in June

Pickup truck sales were up 26% in June

June was a mixed blessing for automakers. According to Ward’s, US light vehicle sales were up a healthy 14.4% with only a few manufacturers missing their numbers from last year but those results, especially for the Detroit Three, included fleet sales. Consumer sales remain soft, a real concern for the months ahead when rental fleets are replenished.

Automakers delivered just over 981,000 cars and light trucks in June. That yielded a seasonally adjusted annual sales rate (SAAR) of 11.08m, well ahead of last June’s anaemic 9.7m, but over a half million behind May 2010 and the slowest rate since February. It was also below the 11.2m forecast by analysts.

Chrysler led the advancers, posting a 35.7% improvement though it should be remembered last June, a newly minted Chrysler Group LLC was emerging from bankruptcy and a prolonged period of minimal production and marketing.

General Motors’ core brands (Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC) were in the black by 37.1% but the remains of Hummer, Pontiac, Saab and Saturn dragged that number down to 11.9%.

Ford sales were up 13.6%, its smallest monthly increase since last November. The American brands did pick up nearly a point in market share, largely at the expense of Honda and Toyota.

Gains among the leading Japanese brands were also modest, with only Nissan breaking into double digits. Honda and Toyota finished the month with upturns of 6.2% and 6.8%, respectively. Among the second tier manufacturers, Mazda finished 32.8% ahead of last June. Subaru racked up yet another monthly sales record while Mitsubishi missed its mark by 3.8% and Suzuki by 5.3%.

As usual, the Koreans reported new records all round. Hyundai sales were up almost 35% and Kia sales rose 18.9% for new monthly sales records and new six-month records.

Percentage-wise, Porsche led the Europeans; sales skyrocketed 137.4% on strong sales of the Panamera and new Cayenne. The winner was Volkswagen Group, up 11.7% thanks in part to Audi’s first-half sales record.

BMW took the lead among premium brands for the month, followed by Mercedes-Benz, leaving Lexus in an unaccustomed third. Lexus still leads in year-to-date sales, about 3,750 sales ahead of Mercedes.

As reported last month, there is major growth in full-size pickup sales. In June, sales of the Ford F-Series, Ram, Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan were up 25.9%, well ahead of the market’s 14.4% growth. Much of this trend is commercial fleets replacing older vehicles, a hopeful sign that businesses are again starting to spend money. This could portend the increase in hiring needed before monthly vehicle sales can truly recover.

July and August are going to be challenging. Last year, sales were boosted by the government’s 'cash for clunkers' programme. July 2009’s SAAR of 11.24m is possible as the car companies have come close to or exceeded that number three out of the six months of 2010, but even Ford may miss when it comes to August’s 14.09m.