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By Marty Padgett

New-car sales in June kept up a heated pace, with most automakers reporting strong gains for the month. Chrysler (OTCPK:FIATY), Toyota (NYSE:TM), and Nissan (OTCPK:NSANY) sales rose, as did GM's (NYSE:GM) by a slight amount, while Ford's (NYSE:F) slipped. Volkswagen (OTCQX:VLKAY) sales were down as well, while luxury brands like Mercedes-Benz and Audi continued a record-setting pace.

Analysts had predicted more of the Big Six carmakers would fall into a summer funk, since June had fewer selling days than did May--but it didn't pan out that way. Instead, sales forecasts for the year are actually rising.

Summer strength?

Automakers and marketing analysts alike are predicting a sales year coming in between 16 million and 16.5 million vehicle sales--while GM's early estimates for the month of June clocked in at 16.6 million units.

According to J.D. Power and LMC Automotive, June sales will reach a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of 16.3 million vehicles, down slightly from May's 16.7 million-unit SAAR because of fewer selling days in the month--24, versus 26.

"June sales are being heavily influenced by a quirk of the industry sales calendar," said John Humphrey, senior vice president of the global automotive practice at J.D. Power.

LMC predicts sales will hit 16.2 million units for the year, up slightly from its earlier forecasts this year.

“The U.S. auto market is arguably in the best position and health it has been in since well before the great recession,” said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive.

Long-term lending at play

J.D. Power also reports through its Power Information Network that transaction prices this year are up to $29,630, up from $28,880 a year ago. Rising prices haven't slowed sales because loan terms are getting longer, and leasing is swinging back into vogue. Power's PIN says 72-month loans now account for 31.8 percent of all retail car sales, up from 30.2 percent last year, and that leasing is back to 26 percent of retail sales, up from 23.8 percent.

J.D. Power analysts say younger buyers in particular are going for longer term-financing. Some 44 percent of shoppers 35 years old and younger are choosing 72-month loans. The figure falls to 25 percent for buyers 55 years and older.

TrueCar reports different average sales prices of $30,575, down marginally over the past two months. It adds that incentives are keeping a measured pace--on average, $2,735 per vehicle in June, up marginally over the past year.

Here are the sales figures reported by automakers for the month of June 2014:

General Motors: GM says it sold 267,461 units in June of 2014, up 1 percent despite fewer selling days and the negative publicity stemming from its ignition-switch recalls, still underway. On the year, GM sales are up 2.5 percent.

  • In June, Chevrolet was off 2.5 percent to 188,567 units. The brand's core car business was down across the board: the Impala was off 16.7 percent, Malibu sales fell 24.2 percent, and the compact Cruze was down 20.9 percent. Chevy's electric Volt was up on the month, but still was outsold by the Nissan Leaf.
  • GMC was up 10.6 percent to 43,550, with Sierra trucks off 7 percent and the new Yukon SUV up 119.6 percent.
  • Cadillac was up slightly, 0.1 percent to 13,941 units, with the entry-level ATS off 31.8 percent and the new mid-size CTS off 10 percent--but its Escalade SUV was up strongly.
  • Buick was up 18.4 percent to 21,403 units, with Encore adding 81.7 percent, Regal up 26 percent, LaCrosse up 33.3 percent--but Verano off 11.2 percent.

Ford: Ford Motor Co. sold 222,064 vehicles in June, a 5.8-percent drop from the same period a year ago. Ford brand accounted for 214,793 vehicles sold, down 5.9 percent. Among the models dropping in sales were the subcompact Fiesta, C-Max hybrid, Taurus sedan, and Edge crossover--even the stalwart Ford F-150 was down (11 percent), though Ford's Fusion sedan was up 13.5 percent.

Lincoln's sales of 7,271 units were off 2.9 percent. The MKZ was off 6 percent, but the new Lincoln MKC crossover sold 684 units in its first month on sale--better than the MKS sedan and MKT crossover, and approaching the Navigator SUV.

Toyota / Lexus / Scion: Toyota sold 201,714 units in June, up 11.9 percent from June 2013 on an adjusted basis. Sales were up 3.3 percent on an unadjusted basis. The Toyota brand accounted for 178,196 units sold, up 2.5 percent adjusted, while Lexus was up 10.1 percent adjusted, to 23,518 units. Sales of every Scion-brand vehicle were down, as the nameplate moved 4,612 vehicles, off 27.3 percent, unadjusted. Sales of the Toyota Camry and 4Runner were up, but its Prius was off 11.5 percent, and the Avalon was down 14.1 percent. Lexus sold 3,932 IS sedans in June, up 104.9 percent over the same month in 2013--but leased only 2 LFA sports cars, which was actually a 100-percent increase over May.

Chrysler: Chrysler says it sold 171,086 units in June, up 9 percent over June 2013, for Chrysler's best June since 2007.

  • Jeep sales of 57,006 units were up 28 percent
  • Ram trucks and vans had their best sales in a decade, with Ram pickup sales up 12 percent
  • Fiat sold 4,478 vehicles in June, up 11 percent, with the 500L up 113 percent
  • Dodge sales were up marginally to 50,314 units; Dart sales rose 12 percent
  • Chrysler brand was down to 24,026 units, off 12 percent
  • Chrysler Group's minivans were up in the double digits (Town & Country 24 percent, Grand Caravan up 22 percent) but Jeep's Grand Cherokee was down 9 percent, and the Dodge Viper sold just 36 units

Honda / Acura: American Honda Motor Co. (NYSE:HMC) says it sold 129,023 vehicles in June, off 6.2 percent on an adjusted basis, a grimmer 13.4 percent down on an unadjusted basis. Honda claimed 117,817 units, down 4.3 percent unadjusted, while Acura sold 11,206 units, down 18.6 percent unadjusted. Sales of the Civic and Accord rose, while the Pilot and CR-V fell. Acura's only gainer: the MDX, up 27.7 percent.

Nissan / Infiniti: Nissan Motor Company says it sold 109,643 vehicles in June, up 5.3 percent for a new June record. Nissan accounted for 101,069 units, up 6.4 percent, with strong sales for the Versa subcompact (+33.4 percent) and Altima (+9.1 percent). Infiniti was off 5.9 percent, to 8,574 units. The electric Leaf hatchback accounted for 2,347 units, up 5.5 percent from June 2013.

Hyundai (OTC:HYMLF): The South Korean automaker reported preliminary June sales numbers via Twitter: "67,407 vehicles sold, up 3.69% YOY. Best-ever first half of year (364,434) and best-ever month for Sonata (23,672)."

Kia (OTC:KIMTF): Kia sales were up slightly in June, to 50,644 units--but it was enough to push the Korean automaker to its best first-half sales ever, totaling 297,413 vehicles. Year to date, Kia is up 7.2 percent.

Subaru: Subaru sales continue to soar: it moved 41,367 vehicles, up 5 percent, for its best-ever June. BRZ sales were off 29.4 percent, but the WRX was up 21.7 percent. The popular Forester and Crosstrek crossovers were up, in the double digits.

BMW / MINI: BMW says its BMW and MINI brands sold 35,577 vehicles in June, up 5.7 percent from the same month in 2013. BMW-branded vehicles accounted for 30,201 sales, up 11.5 percent, while MINI sales dropped by 18.2 percent to 5,376 units.

Mercedes-Benz: Mercedes-Benz checked in with preliminary sales numbers via Twitter. CEO Steve Cannon tweeted, "Mercedes USA just had an all-time best June sales up 8.5%." The final tally of all Benz, Sprinter and Smart sales was 29,380 vehicles, up 8.2 percent from June 2013. Mercedes-Benz accounted for 26,506 units, up 8.6 percent. Like Kia, Mercedes had its best first half-year ever, at 167,754 vehicles sold.

Volkswagen: At 28,827 units, VW's June sales posted a 22-percent drop from the same month in 2013. Passat sales were off 33.4 percent, and the Jetta lineup was down 18.4 percent.

Mazda (OTCPK:MZDAF): Mazda sales were up to 26,208 vehicles in June, an increase of 16.5 percent; its sales are up 7.9 percent on the year with 56,431 vehicles sold.

Audi (OTCPK:AUDVF): Audi sales were up 23.1 percent to 16,867 units; 2,452 of them were the new A3 sedan.

Mitsubishi (OTCPK:MHVYF): Mitsubishi reported 6,021 units sold in June, up 13.7 percent from the same month in 2013; it's up 30.2 percent on the year.

Volvo (OTC:VOLAF): Volvo sales of 5,984 units were down 10.4 percent from the same month last year; Volvo sales have fallen 10 percent on the year so far, at 29,331 vehicles.

Jaguar / Land Rover: Jaguar Land Rover sold 5,301 units, up 4 percent on the month; the two brands are up 12 percent on the year so far. Land Rover claimed 4,038 sales, up 16 percent; Jaguar was at 1,263 units, down 23 percent.

Porsche (OTCPK:POAHF): The Porsche Macan SUV sold 763 units in its first month on the market, almost beating the classic 911 (809 units). Porsche's total of 4,102 units was up 11 percent on the month.

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Source: June 2014 Car Sales Still Simmering