Major automakers post mixed US June sales figures

General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV posted declines in US new vehicle sales for June on Monday, while major Japanese automakers reported stronger figures. Once again, demand for pickup trucks and crossovers offset a decline in sedan sales.

Automakers' shares rose as overall industry sales still came in above Wall Street expectations.

The US auto industry is bracing for a downturn after hitting a record 17.55 million new vehicles sold in 2016. Analysts had predicted that overall, US vehicle sales would fall in June for the fourth consecutive month.

As the market has shown signs of cooling, automakers have hiked discounts and loosened lending terms.

Car shopping website Edmunds said on Monday the average length of a car loan reached an all-time high of 69.3 months in June.

"It's financially risky, leaving borrowers exposed to being upside down on their vehicles for a large chunk of their loans," said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds' executive director of industry analysis.

GM said its sales fell about 5 percent versus June 2016, but that the industry would see stronger sales in the second half of 2017 versus the first half.

"Under the current economic conditions, we anticipate US retail vehicle sales will remain strong for the foreseeable future."

GM shares were up 2.4 percent in morning trading, while Ford rose 3.3 percent and FCA shares jumped 6 percent.

"US total sales are moderating due to an industry-wide pullback in daily rental sales, but key US economic fundamentals clearly remain positive," said GM chief economist Mustafa Mohatarem. "Under the current economic conditions, we anticipate US retail vehicle sales will remain strong for the foreseeable future."

Ford said its sales for June were hit by lower fleet sales to rental agencies, businesses, and government entities, which fell 13.9 percent, while sales to consumers were flat. But it sold a record 406,464 SUVs in the first half of the year, with Explorer sales increasing 23 percent in June. And sales of the F-150 had their strongest June since 2001.

On a media call, Ford executives said an initial read of automakers' sales figures indicated a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of around 17 million new vehicles for the month, which would be better than 16.6 million units analysts had predicted.

FCA said June sales decreased 7 percent versus the same month a year earlier.

Toyota said sales rose 2.1 percent versus June 2016 and said it saw strong gains in the RAV4, a light SUV, sales of which increased 24.7 percent. Sales of another SUV, the 4Runner, rose 16.6 percent.

But sales at Toyota's Lexus luxury car brand fell 5.4 percent on the year.

Nissan said its US sales increased 2 percent. But while truck, SUV and crossover sales jumped 19.5 percent, sedan sales dropped 12.1 percent. In the past few years, Americans have increasingly shunned smaller passenger cars in favor of larger vehicles. Sales of its Infiniti luxury brand were up 11 percent.

Honda said sales for June were up 0.8 percent.

Reporting by Nick Carey

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