GM, Ford US sales down, but Japanese automakers report gains

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

DETROIT (AP) — U.S. sales at General Motors and Ford each fell about 5 percent last month, but the three largest Japanese automakers reported sales increases.

The results early Monday could counter analyst predictions that sales will fall in June for the sixth straight month.

Analysts expect sales to fall from 2 percent to 4 percent in June, the sixth straight month of declines. That means first-half sales could be negative for the first time since 2009.

GM says its sales dropped 4.7 percent, while Ford sales declined 5.1 percent. But Toyota reported a 2.1 percent increase, while Honda posted nearly a 1 percent gain and Nissan sales were up 2 percent. Volkswagen reported a 15 percent gain over June of 2016 when sales were depressed due to the company’s diesel engine emissions-cheating scandal.

Nearly all automakers report June sales on Monday.

With few exceptions, U.S. buyers continued a trend they’ve been following for years. They’re buying SUVs and trucks and shunning cars. Sales of Toyota’s Camry, normally the top-selling non-pickup truck in the U.S., fell nearly 10 percent. But Ford’s F-Series pickup, the top-selling vehicle in America, rose nearly 10 percent.

Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for Autotrader.com, says she doesn’t expect a big recovery in the second half of the year, but she also doesn’t see a huge decline. She predicts full-year sales of 16.8 million to 17.3 million, below last year’s record of 17.55 million.

“We think the second half could be a little bit stronger than the first half was,” says Krebs, who expects this year still to be the fifth-best year on record. “We don’t see any imbalances that suggest anything is going to collapse.”

Krebs says economic fundamentals remain strong, although credit is tightening slightly and automakers are cutting back on sweet lease deals. “We’re down but not out,” she says.

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