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Published: Wednesday, 7/4/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Auto sales in June are best in 5 years

Wrangler sets monthly record

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

That didn't take long.

One month after setting an all-time monthly sales mark for the Jeep Wrangler, Chrysler Group LLC did it again, selling a record 14,461 of the capable Toledo-built four-by-fours in June. For May, the company sold 14,454 units.

The Wrangler's strong month — along with big increases from the Chrysler 200, Dodge Avenger, and Fiat 500 — helped push Chrysler to a 20 percent sales gain over last June. June was Chrysler's 27th consecutive month of year-over-year sales growth.

"Continuous improvement remains a key focus at Chrysler as we have steadily increased sales, improved quality, added production, and created jobs," said Reid Bigland, Chrysler's head of U.S. sales.

At the year's halfway point, Chrysler has sold 834,068 vehicles — 30 percent more than it had through last June.

Overall, U.S. auto sales in June were the best in five years and appear to be coming in ahead of many analysts' expectations.

"There was great pressure from automakers to close June strong, especially after the unexpectedly weak Memorial Day holiday weekend in May. It is the end of a quarter, so undoubtedly they wanted to finish big," said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds.com senior analyst.

Most analysts had predicted a June seasonally adjusted annualized rate of between 13.8 million and 13.9 million. But as major automakers reported their June sales Tuesday, Edmunds and others expected the adjusted rate to settle at 14 million. Analysts said continuing pent-up demand, targeted incentive programs, favorable interest rates, and lower gas prices helped push sales beyond expectations.

Several automakers reported big gains, although none as much as Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp., which struggled to build adequate inventory last year after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Those problems are now largely in the past. Toyota posted a 60 percent gain over last June, and Honda reported sales were up 49 percent.

"June and first-half-year sales were driven by consumer interest in our new models including the Prius c, the newest member of the Prius family, and the Camry, the best-selling car in America," Bob Carter, Toyota's group vice president and general manager, said in a statement.

Toyota also benefited from considerable buzz over the Scion FR-S, a new offering that sits on the opposite side of the spectrum.

"Toyota has a goal of attracting people who are younger and love to drive," Ms. Caldwell said, noting the lightweight, rear-wheel-drive FR-S has been successful in doing just that. Toyota sold 2,684 of the model in June.

Through six months, Toyota has sold a little more than 1 million vehicles, up 29 percent from last year. Honda has sold about 700,000 vehicles, up 15 percent.

Of the Detroit Three, Chrysler yet again posted the largest percentage gain, although with June sales of 144,811, it still trails General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. in total volume.

GM said it sold 248,750 cars and trucks last month, up 16 percent from 2011. Ford posted a 7 percent gain to 207,759 vehicles and said it set a monthly sales record for the Escape crossover at 28,500 units.

Ford's year-to-date sales are up 6 percent from 2011 to about 1.1 million vehicles. GM sales are up 4 percent to about 1.3 million.

Chrysler's sales were again led by the Ram pickup, followed by the Jeep Wrangler.

For the year, Chrysler has sold 70,871 Wranglers. Through six months last year, Chrysler had sold 53,236 Wranglers.

When reporting sales numbers, Chrysler doesn't differentiate between the two-door and four-door models, although production numbers show Chrysler builds about two of the four-door Wrangler Unlimited for every one standard two-door Wrangler.

Sales of the Toledo-built Liberty also surged in June, up 50 percent over last year to 7,892. For the year, Liberty sales are up 35 percent to 42,339. Chrysler will stop building the Liberty in mid-August.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.



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