July 2011 Car Sales: It's The Economy, Stupid

August 2, 2011
Car sales reports are rolling in today from auto manufacturers, even as the nation's leaders struggle with a compromise to keep America's economy from falling into default.

As expected, sales aren't quite up to the levels seen earlier this year, which is fueling concerns that the economy that had shown some vitality earlier in the year is sagging--which in turn is leaving automakers wondering if any strong recovery is in sight.

While final numbers filter in, the market analysts at J.D. Power are predicting the seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) coming in at about 11.9 million units in July--with just 9.8 million units being sold at the retail level.

The reason? It's the economy, says Power's director of forecasting Jeff Schuster.

"Consumers continue to face obstacles in their willingness and ability to purchase a new vehicle,” he says.

Slow car sales are also still sluggish in the wake of some uncontrollable events. The lingering effects of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan are still expected to affect numbers from Toyota, Honda and Subaru, but those manufacturers all confirm they've brought production back up to speed sooner than initially predicted.

The results by automaker, with some still to come:  

General Motors: In all, GM sales were up 8 percent on the month with a total of 214,915 vehicles sold in July. Chevrolet sales rose 6 percent to 149,005 units, behind the strong-selling Cruze and Equinox; the brand is up 14 percent on the year. Buick rose slightly to 16,873 sales, while it's up 27 percent on the year; GMC moved 37,918 vehicles, up 36 percent on the month and to date, 25 percent on the year. Cadillac sales, though, fell 26 percent on the month to 11,119 units, though it's up 9 percent for the year.

Ford: Ford sold 180,865 vehicles in July, an increase of 9 percent over July 2010. The Ford brand's sales were up 13 percent, behind the Explorer (up 108 percent) and the Fusion (up 17 percent). Lincoln sales were up 40 percent on the month, are up a percent, with MKZ sales up 80 percent.

Chrysler: Chrysler says it sold 112,026 vehicles in July, for a 20-percent boost over July 2010. Jeep's strength came from the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee, while the Dodge Durango helped that brand to its increase over a year ago. Fiat sales are climbing, up 68 percent on the month. However, Chrysler says it's sitting on 72 days' worth of cars to sell, where a 60-day supply is considered normal.

Toyota / Lexus:Toyota continued to suffer the effects of the March disasters in Japan, and from its own recall-related sales dip. The automaker sold 130,802 vehicles in July, down 19.7 percent on the year on an adjusted basis. The Toyota brand recorded 116,263 sales, off 19.8 percent, while Lexus moved 14,539 units, a drop of 18.8 percent. Scion sales were off 21.9 percent for the month, though the tC two-door saw its sales rise 27.6 percent.

Honda / Acura: Honda saw sales fall once more as it begins to recover lost production from the March 11 disasters. The total sales of 80,502 vehicles posted by the automaker represents a decrease of 25.6 percent. Honda was off 25.7 percent at 71,000 units, though the Pilot crossover was up 8 percent on the month. Acura fell 25 percent to 9,402 units. On the year, Honda is off 2.6 percent, and Acura, 5.5 percent.

Nissan / Infiniti: Nissan says it sold 84,601 vehicles in July. That's a rise of 2.7 percent, due primarily to a Nissan-brand sales  increase of 6.4 percent. Infiniti dropped by 24.1 percent for the month.

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