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July US auto sales could fall on weaker demand

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U.S. auto sales were expected to drop slightly in July as unusually hot weather — and softening demand — kept buyers at home.

Kelley Blue Book predicted a 1 percent decline from last July to about 1.5 million new cars and trucks, while auto pricing site TrueCar.com expected sales to be flat for the month.

General Motors’ sales fell 2 percent while Ford’s U.S. sales fell 3 percent. Nissan’s sales were up 1 percent. Volkswagen’s sales fell 8 percent.

Other automakers will report sales later August 2.

After six straight years of growth — and record sales of 17.5 million new vehicles last year— U.S. sales are beginning to plateau. In the first six months of last year, for example, sales were up 4 percent, or more than double the pace of this year. But low gas prices, low interest rates, enticing new vehicles and strong consumer confidence should keep them at a very high level.

“We’re still at a healthy level as an industry,” Ford’s U.S. sales chief Mark LaNeve said August 2. “We’ll adjust our plans according to the reality and temper our expectations somewhat.”

Plateauing sales could be a good thing for consumers, since automakers are dialing up the discounts in order to hold on to their market share. TrueCar said industry incentives were up 5 percent over last July to an average of $3,225 per vehicle. Ford, Volkswagen, BMW and Fiat Chrysler had the biggest increases over last July, TrueCar said.

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