Gas prices fuel U.S. big-vehicle sales in July

August 04 01:35 2015

The major automakers posted strong U.S. sales performances in July as the auto industry creeps closer to its first full year of 17 million-unit sales since before the Great Recession. The automakers reaped profits from consumers’ rush to buy bigger vehicles as gasoline prices remain low. SUV sales stood out. Low gas prices spelled sales declines for many small models, leaving distinct questions about how the automakers can sell fuel-sipping cars without piling on incentives.AFP 536375601 I FIN FRA BO

The price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude oil is half what it was a year ago. It continued its recent free fall, dropping below $46. Big vehicles mean big profits for the automakers. The average transaction price for a vehicle sold in the U.S. rose 3% in July, compared to a year ago, to $33,453, according to Kelley Blue Book. The average pickup truck sold for $45,700, up 5% from the same period a year ago. That partly reflects a greater number of consumers purchasing expensive options on their pickups.

Japanese automaker Subaru continued its stunning hot streak in the U.S., posting its best month ever with sales of 50,517 vehicles. General Motors posted a 6% sales increase in July, compared to the same period a year earlier. GM was powered by a 14% increase in sales to retail customers, the most profitable kind of transaction in the business. The Chevrolet brand rose 8%, the GMC brand increased 1%, the Buick brand rose 18%, and the Cadillac brand fell 7%. GM reduced its reliance on less-profitable daily rental sales for the month.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles also recorded a 6% increase in July, marking its 64th consecutive month of U.S. sales gains. Ford posted a 5% increase. Honda’s sales rose 8%, and Toyota’s sales rose 1% in July. Nissan Group’s U.S. sales rose 8% in July, compared to a year earlier. The Nissan brand rose 6.7% and the Infiniti brand increased 22%. Fiat Chrysler’s biggest brand, Jeep, surged 23% in July, with all of its U.S. vehicles posting increases. The Wrangler was up 18%, and the Cherokee was up 13%. The company sold 6,320 units of its recently introduced Renegade small crossover.