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:

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