Many automakers had a positive month of sales in July, particularly the domestics, with Ford Motor Company up 3.11 percent, Chrysler Group up 4.96 percent and General Motors topping the charts with its four core brands up an impressive 24.58 percent to lead all automakers. Even with the loss of four marques (Saturn, Pontiac, Hummer and Saab), GM managed to outsell the company's entire portfolio of eight brands from last July by 5.41 percent. Of course, The General's sales weren't exactly setting the charts on fire last summer (they were down 19 percent compared to July 2008), so the bar was set low.
Something you can't see in our table below is what appears to be a developing shift away from small and mid-size cars to trucks and CUVs in the marketplace. Blame the shift in consumer tastes to pent-up demand for utility vehicles, higher used car prices and, as always, lower gas prices. Still, we can't help but cringe at the site of large vehicles, be they trucks, SUVs or CUVs, selling well, knowing that gas prices are cyclical and another spike in the price of oil could be right around the corner.
Interestingly, this shift comes as America's small car segment is enjoying more new products than any time in recent memory, with a raft of compelling fresh models from Ford, Chevrolet, Mazda and others hitting the marketplace. These brands would appear to be well-placed to meet the demand for small cars if fuel prices rise precipitously, but any automaker in the business of selling economy cars is going to need strong, steady demand if it hopes to make money on what are historically very low (or no) margin models.
UPDATE: A few of you have reminded us that July 1, 2009 was the beginning of the U.S. government's Car Allowance Rebate System, or Cash for Clunkers program as the people called it. One side effect of the program was that sales of smaller, more fuel efficient cars was artificially boosted while the program was running. While we still don't discount the steady price of gasoline and other factors contributing to increased sales of larger vehicles like trucks and SUVs, the Cash for Clunkers program helps explain why sales of many popular small cars appear to have taken a nose dive last month.
Here are just a few examples that illustrate the shift that might be happening in consumer taste towards larger vehicles:
Honda Civic: -25.5% (23,231)
Honda Pilot: 45.4% (9,570)
Toyota Prius: -29.2% (14,102)
Toyota Sequoia: 50.5% (1,233)
Ford Focus: -29.4% (15,417)
Ford F-Series: 38.9% (50,449)
Nissan Cars: -3.7% (44,343)
Nissan Trucks/SUVs: 51% (28,230)
Honda Odyssey: 37.8% (9,711)
Toyota Sienna: 41.5% (10,381)
Chrysler Town & Country: 18% (8,083)
|Brand/Company||Vol. %||July 2010||July 2009||DSR* %||July 2010||July 2009|
|Nissan North America||14.60||82,337||71,847||10.36||3,050||2,763|
|Ford Motor Company||3.11||170,411||165,279||-0.71||6,312||6,357|
|Toyota Mo Co||-3.23||169,224||174,872||-6.81||6,268||6,726|