US car and truck sales cooled in June from a torrid pace in May, and Detroit carmakers again lost market share, but sales overall are expected to pick up later this year as the economy strengthens, analysts reportedly said.

Reuters said car makers are scheduled to report June sales on July 1, and industry sales are expected to drop to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of about 16.5 million vehicles, down from a surprisingly strong 17.8 million in May when heavy incentives offset worries over higher petrol prices.

“You’re seeing wild swings,” David Littmann, chief economist with Comerica Bank, who attributes the fluctuation in monthly results to changes in consumer incentives, told the news agency.

“The basics are there for good sales,” Littmann reportedly said. “July will be excellent. I expect that to move back over 17 million units.”

Reuters said a few analysts, including Littmann, said June sales could fall to as low as 16.1 million, down from an annual rate of 16.5 million in June last year, but added that rising consumer confidence, the strengthening stock market and the falling unemployment rate will spur sales in the second half of the year.

General Motors and Ford are expected to lose market share in June to Asian competitors led by Toyota, which should show double-digit gains with strong sales for its new SUVs, the report said.

Sales for GM are seen dropping about 4% to 5%, while analysts reportedly peg Ford sales falling from 5% to 10%.

“Ford is pricing a lot of their vehicles too high,” compared to GM, Burnham Securities analyst David Healy told Reuters. “They’re also in a new product lull, but that will change in the fall when they introduce the Freestyle, the Five Hundred and the Mustang.”

The news agency noted that Ford, which has declared 2004 the “Year of the Car”, has cut production of many of its top-selling cars, including the Taurus and Sable mid-size cars, and the Mustang sports car, to prepare for new models coming out this autumn.

GM sales would fall further if not for higher sales to fleet customers such as car rental agencies, Healy reportedly said.

The Chrysler arm of DaimlerChrysler reportedly could post a slight gain, thanks to strong sales of its new Chrysler 300 sports sedan, the PT Cruiser convertible and its new minivans.