July 2012 Car Sales: Summer Heat Brings Surprising Numbers

August 1, 2012

Even as the global economy continues to flounder amid debt crises and high unemployment, car sales in the U.S. ride the tide of an aging fleet that needs replacing and rising consumer confidence numbers.

Overall, car sales for July were down slightly from June, but J.D. Power and Associates forecast July to deliver the second strongest year-on-year growth we've seen over the past 12 months, with a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 11.5 million units. The upward march is already slowing, however.

"Retail sales got off to a fast start in July, and while they've slowed down a bit as the month has progressed, through the first 16 selling days, they're still up 15.1 percent, compared to July 2011," said J.D. Powers and Associates' senior vice president of global automotive operations John Humphrey. Despite the quick start, several of the largest carmakers are seeing dips in year-on-year July sales totals.

Consumer confidence figures took an unexpected rise in July, according to Bloomberg, rising to 65.9 from 62.7 in June, bucking predictions of a one-point fall. The rise comes despite June predictions from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasting unemployment rates to rise slightly through the end of 2012.

Also working against the rise in consumer confidence are gas prices at their highest July level since 2000, at an average of $3.50 per gallon. That figure marks a 21-cent decline from a year ago, however, and gas prices traditionally fall further in August.

Despite these countervailing indicators, LMC Automotive maintains its forecast 2012 total light-vehicle sales at 14.5 million units, with retail sales forecast at 11.6 million units. However, LMC Automotive's Jeff Schuster cautions, "Given the economic slowdown and the increasing likelihood that we see a second half boost in auto sales there is approximately 150,000 units of risk to the 2012 forecast."

LMC's figures are at the high end of the spectrum forecast by the automakers themselves, with Chrysler predicting 14 million units, and GM slightly more pessimistic at 13.8-14 million.

For a look at the specifics of the plug-in hybrid market, visit Green Car Reports' July 2012 sales analysis.

So, which carmakers have benefited from July's unexpected upward swing, and which haven't? Read on for the July 2012 totals, as reported by the automakers:

2012 Dodge Journey

2012 Dodge Journey


General Motors: GM (NYSE: GM) says it sold 201,237 cars in July across its four brands, a decline of 6.4 percent total against July 2011 and a significant dip from June. Retail sales of 153,519 in July mark a 3.2 percent decline from last July. GM says the overall decrease is due to a planned 41 percent reduction in rental fleet sales.

Small, mini, and compact cars lead GM's charge, up 41 percent year-on-year, including: the Buick Verano, with sales of 4,235 cars sold in July continuing the month-to-month increases since launch in December, 2011; Chevrolet Sonic sales of 6,278, which continue the segment-leading volume first achieved in April, 2012; and a total of 1,460 Chevy Sparks sold in its first month on the market.

With the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu four-cylinder and Cadillac ATS now entering production, with the addition of five other new models later this year, Chevrolet is forecasting a 13.8-14 million July SAAR but a full-year SAAR of 14.0-14.5 million.

Ford: Ford (NYSE: F) says it sold 173,966 cars in July 2012, down 3.8 percent from July 2011. The year-to-date total is still up 5.1 percent on last year, however, at 1,317,589 cars sold.

Ford's mix of vehicle sales splits fairly evenly across cars, utilities, and trucks, with standout sales among its Ford and Lincoln brands including: the Fiesta, down 23.4 percent against last year and 25.4 percent year to date; the Ford Explorer, up 14.3 percent against July 2011, and the SUV's best July sales since 2006; the Fusion, up 202.7 percent; the Lincoln MKT, up 57 percent but selling a total of just 738 cars; and the Lincoln MKS, down 19.7 percent from July 2011.

Like GM, Ford's overall sales decrease in July is blamed on lower fleet sales, down a total of 16 percent. Retail sales increased 2 percent.

Toyota / Lexus / Scion: Toyota (NYSE: TM) said it sold 164,898 units across its three brands, an unadjusted increase of 26.1 percent against last July, or an adjusted increase of 36.6 percent. 

Lexus constituted 18,235 of those sales, a 25.4 percent rise in raw volume, or a 35.9 percent rise in Daily Selling Rate (DSR). Of those, the ES 350 led at 3,759 units, followed by the IS sedan. The CT 200h hybrid sold 1,499 units.

Toyota brand vehicles sold 80,061 units, led by Camry and Camry Hybrid for a combined 29,913 cars.

Scion's sales of 6,904 cars for July represent a 97.3 percent rise in volume from July, 2011. The new FR-S sold 1,649 units, more than three times the number of its doppelganger, the Subaru BRZ.

Chrysler:  Chrysler Group LLC sold 126,089 cars, down about 18,700 units from June, but a 13 percent rise from July 2011, making last month the strongest July for Chrysler since 2007.

Chrysler brand cars saw the biggest single year-on-year increase, rising 35 percent. Of the three models it currently sells, the Chrysler 200 was the volume leader, up 43 percent against last July at 9,287 cars sold.

Models to note among Chrysler's Fiat, Jeep, Dodge, and Ram brands include: the Jeep Grand Cherokee, up 22 percent year-on-year, and the Jeep Liberty, up 34 percent; the Dodge Journey, up 69 percent from July 2011; the Fiat 500, up 22 percent from last year; and the Ram pickup, up 17 percent.

Chrysler's 65-day supply of cars is two days smaller than it was in June, but still above the 60-day supply considered normal in the industry. The company projects a 14-million unit SAAR based on July.

Honda / Acura: American Honda reported total sales of 116,944 vehicles, an increase of 45.3 percent against July, 2011. Of those, Honda brand vehicles accounted for 104,119 units, and Acura the remaining 12,825.

Leading Honda's sales tally was the Accord at 28,639, a rise of more than 70 percent, followed by the Civic, which rose 78 percent to 25,004 cars sold. The CR-V is up for the seventh consecutive month, rising 47 percent over last July to 20,554 units.

Acura sold a record number of the RDX, up 142 percent from last July to 2,664 units. The MDX remains Acura's top seller, at 4,288 crossovers sold, a rise of 24 percent. The new 2013 ILX sold 1,410 units in July.

Nissan / Infiniti: Nissan North America reported sales of 98,341 units, a rise of 16.2 percent compared to July 2011 sales of 84,601.

Nissan Division made up 86,722 of the total sales tally, a rise of 12.3 percent year-on-year. The Altima rose 24.7 percent, selling a total of 26,602 units, a best-ever result for July, and the first full month of the new 2013 Altima's sales. The Nissan Rogue also set a best-ever July total, rising 17.2 percent to 13.193.

Infiniti sales rose 56.8 percent over July, 2011, to 11,619 units. Leading the way at Infiniti was the G Sedan, rising 88.8 percent over July, 2011. The results mark the best July result for Infiniti since 2005.

2012 Audi A6

2012 Audi A6

Hyundai: Per its custom, Hyundai released an early look at its July sales via Twitter. CEO John Krafcik reports: "High demand but tight inventories led to 62,021 Hyundai sales in July (+4%). And yes, Veloster Turbo is now shipping, 153 sales to-date. jfk"

Kia: Kia Motors likewise gave a preview of its results via Twitter, though without any specifics: "We're happy to announce our best-ever July sales, resulting in a 23rd consecutive monthly sales record. Big thx to our customers &supporters."

Volkswagen: VW says it sold 37,014 cars in July, a 27.3 percent increase year-on-year and the best July result since 1973. The Jetta led the way, selling 13,629 examples, while the Passat followed at 9,007 cars sold. The new Beetle moved 2,839 units.

Subaru: Subaru reports it sold 25,183 cars in July, a rise of 15.9 percent from last year, and the eighth consecutive month of sales improvements for the brand. The Outback led Subaru's sales, with 9,282 of the wagons sold, followed by the Forester and Impreza. The brand's new sports car, the BRZ, sold 498 units.

Mazda: Mazda reported July sales of 19,318 vehicles, declining 7 percent from 2011. Year-to-date sales remain up 13.9 percent with 163,115 vehicles sold through July 2012. Skyactiv vehicle sales are up 24 percent since the introduction of the CX-5 crossover, and now constitute 60 percent of total vehicle sales in July.

Mitsubishi: Mitsubishi sold 4,194 cars in North America, a decrease of 47.4 percent compared to July, 2011. Mitsubishi Motors North America president explains, "Currently our sales are impacted by our models whose production was completed last summer. This condition will continue for the remainder of the summer." The Outlander Sport is Mitsubishi's top seller in the U.S.

Suzuki: American Suzuki Motor Corporation says it sold 2,266 vehicles in July. The Grand Vitara rose 23 percent year-on-year.

Audi: Audi says it sold 11,707 new vehicles in a record-setting July, an increase of 28 percent beyond July 2011.

Leading Audi's best-ever July sales were the Audi A8, A7, A6, and Q7, which Audi calls its "premium category" vehicles. As a whole the category rose 20 percent to compose 30.4 percent of Audi's total sales in July--though the A7 fell 18.5 percent from July, 2011, and the A8 also dropped 10.9 percent.

The A6's strong results buoyed the premium category, with the sedan up 66.8 percent month-on-month and 123.8 percent year to date. The A4 followed with a 51.7 percent increase in sales for July, while the A5 notched a 31.9 percent increase.

BMW / MINI: BMW and MINI reported combined sales of 27,152, a 4 percent increase year-on-year for July. BMW brand sold 21,297 vehicles, a 0.5 percent decrease against July, 2011. Year-to-date, the brand carries a 9.4 percent increase over 2011, however, with the MINI brand up 24.3 percent year-on-year for July and 9.8 percent year to date.

Leading Audi's best-ever July sales were the Audi A8, A7, A6, and Q7, which Audi calls its "premium category" vehicles. As a whole the category rose 20 percent to compose 30.4 percent of Audi's total sales in July--though the A7 fell 18.5 percent from July, 2011, and the A8 also dropped 10.9 percent.

The A6's strong results buoyed the premium category, with the sedan up 66.8 percent month-on-month and 123.8 percent year to date. The A4 followed with a 51.7 percent increase in sales for July, while the A5 notched a 31.9 percent increase.

Porsche: In July, Porsche sales totaled 2,803, a rise of just 1 percent over July, 2011. The new 911 and Boxster are selling well, however, offsetting a decline for the Cayenne and almost flat Panamera sales.

Mercedes-Benz: Mercedes reported a total of 22,294 cars sold in July, up 5.8 percent from last July. Year-to-date the brand is up 18.6 percent against 2011. Mercedes-Benz passenger cars accounted for 19,311 of the total sales figure, with the company's Smart brand selling 780 cars and the Sprinter vans another 2,203.

Mercedes leading vehicle by volume was the C Class, at 5,663 cars sold, but only narrowly ahead of the E Class, which sold 5,089 cars in July.

Volvo: Volvo reports July sales of 5,717 units, rising 2.2 percent from last July, though year-to-date sales are down 3.7 percent compared to 2011.

Volvo's best seller for July was the S60, moving 1,934 units, a 22.1 percent increase year-on-year. The XC60 was close behind at 1,782 units, marking a 73.2 percent rise.

Jaguar / Land Rover: Jaguar Land Rover North America report sales of 3,320 for its Land Rover brand and 1,011 for Jaguar. Those represent rises of 18 percent for Land Rover and 3 percent for Jaguar. Total group sales are up 14 percent year-on-year, and 16 percent year-to-date.

Land Rover's leading model was the Range Rover Sport, selling 1,212 units, a four percent rise. Jaguar's volume seller was the XF, selling 485 units, over the XJ's 421 units.

Jaguar expects a new eight-speed automatic transmission and new engine options to further bolster rising XF and XJ sales volumes through the end of the year.

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