STILL RED-HOT: Ford US sold 11 719 Mustangs in June 2015. Image: AFP
DETROIT, Michigan - Americans in June 2015 again bought vehicles that sit high and come loaded with features such as reversing cameras and smartphone capabilities. Engine power was also in; petrol-sipping not so much.
SUV's of all sizes continued to fly off showroom floors. Sales of the larger Ford Explorer rose 30%; Nissan's Rogue small SUV posted a 54% jump, sales of the Jeep Cherokee gained 39%.
Total sales rose 3.9% over June 2014 to 1.48-million, according to Autodata Corp. For the first half of 2015, sales gained 4.4% to 8.5-million so, buoyed by the momentum, the National Automobile Dealers' Association has raised its full-year sales forecast to 17.2-million vehicles from just under 17-million.
The previous time auto sales topped 17-million was in 2001.
Most automakers reported gains for June, led by Nissan with an increase of 13%. General Motors' sales fell, largely because the company cut back on sales to rental companies.
REASONS TO BUY
Consumers are finding a number of reasons to buy, including an improved job market, low interest rates, a robust stock market and low fuel prices. Automakers are also helping themselves by introducing new vehicles faster and loading them up with desirable features.
The average new vehicle cost an estimated equivalent of R392 640 in June, according to the car-buying site TrueCar.com.
Larry Dominique, TrueCar's executive vice-president, said high-volume sales of SUV's priced in the low-to-middle range both sides of R368 700 were boosting transaction prices. Another factor: luxury sales around the equivalent of R614 500 were, Dominique said, are "on fire".
Ford's Lincoln division gained 14.5% while sales for Nissan's Infiniti and Toyota's Lexus luxury units also rose by double digits.
Demand for SUVs is taking a bite out of car sales. Sales of the mid-size Ford Fusion dropped 8% in May while sales of Chevy's compact Cruze slipped 13%.
Dealers offered promotions in June to clear some smaller cars off their forecourts. Kia, for example, was offering 0% financing for up to 66 months and up to the equivalent of R18 400 on Optima and Forte sedans.
The decline in car sales is partly due to lower petrol prices. According to AAA, the average price for a gallon (3.8 litres) of petrol in the US on July 1 was the equivalent of R33.92 (R8.90/litre) compared to R45.10 (R11.86/litre) on July 1, 2014.
Muscle hasn't lost its appeal. Sales of the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger all rose. Ford sold 11 719 Mustangs, a 54% gain and the performance car's best June since 2007.
Among the major automakers reporting:
• Nissan's US sales rose more than 13% in June. Besides the Rogue, sales of the mid-size Altima rose 13%, bucking the trend in that segment.
• Fiat Chrysler posed an eight percent gain, led by the Jeep brand which posted a 25% sales increase.
• Ford sales rose by two percent. Sales of the redesigned Edge crossover gained 30%.
• Sales at GM fell by three percent but the largest US automaker outsold Ford's F-Series in pick-up sales, 70 166 to 55 110.
• Toyota sales rose 4.1%. The Camry remains the best-selling car in the US but sales of the mid-size car slipped by eight percent.
• Honda sales rose 4.2%. Sales of the CR-V, the best-selling crossover SUV in the US, gained 8.5%
• Hyundai sales rose less than one percent. The Santa Fe crossover saw a gain of 17%, but sales of the Sonata midsize dropped 40%. Sister company Kia posted a gain of 6.9%, boosted by sales of the re-designed Sedona minivan.
• Volkswagen sales rose 5.6%, led by the Golf family.