American Car Makers Struggle To Lure US Buyers In July

American consumers’ appetite for US car brands eased significantly in July, as the industry continued to slow from last year’s record-setting pace, according to sales figures released Tuesday.

All three Detroit carmakers reported steep overall declines, even as demand for SUVs and light trucks remained a bright spot and helped buoy the average transaction prices.

General Motors, the largest US automaker, experienced a steep 15.4 percent sales decline in July compared to the same period last year.

The US division of Fiat Chrysler saw sales fall 10 percent, and Ford dropped 7.5 percent.

The numbers were in line with expectations, after June’s industry-wide decline of three percent — from the month prior and in the year-over-year comparison.

“We’re in the midst of the steady summer sales months when new vehicles tend to stay relatively consistent after peaking during the Memorial Day weekend in May,” Kelly Blue Book analyst Tim Fleming said in his forecast.

Sales were expected to pick up over the next two months, as the industry offers model-year closeout deals to make way for newer vehicles.

“Under the current economic conditions, we anticipate the second half of 2017 will be much stronger than the first half,” said Mustafa Mohatarem, GM’s chief economist, adding that key economic fundamentals remained strong.

Average transaction prices were an industry bright spot, with new vehicle prices ticking up 1.7 percent in July compared to the year-ago period, according to Kelly Blue Book.

But the increase masked overall weakness, Fleming said.

“Despite modest sales growth for SUVs in a down market, transaction prices in these segments are not particularly strong, with compact SUVs up just one percent and mid-size SUVs flat,” Fleming said.

Toyota, one of the world’s biggest automakers, bucked the trend — reporting a 3.6 percent sales increase. The company highlighted its RAV4 SUV as a leading factor — with sales topping 40,000 units for the first time.

Like its American competitors, Nissan reported a 3.2 percent decline, but sales of its SUVs and light trucks rose five percent — with sales of some models more than tripling.

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