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Sales of new cars and trucks rose again in July as the auto industry continues to pile on to what’s shaping up to easily be the best year since before the recession and one of the industry’s best years ever.
Led again by strong gains at Chrysler Group LLC, and to a lesser extent Subaru, Nissan, and Toyota, industry sales were up about 9 percent over last year, according to research firm Autodata Corp.
For Chrysler, trucks and sport utility vehicles remain at the head of the pack.
“It’s really Jeep’s success and Ram’s success,” said Eric Lyman, vice president of industry insights for TrueCar.com.
For Jeep, the two biggest strengths in July were the brand’s Toledo-built SUVs.
The company said sales of the Wrangler were a July-record 16,388, up 14 percent from last July. That was enough to make the Wrangler the month’s best-selling Jeep and the company’s second best selling vehicle behind the Ram pickup.
Sales of the Cherokee also remain strong at 14,827 units, up 11 percent from June.
For the year, Jeep brand sales are up 44 percent, mostly because of the new Cherokee that went on sale last fall. But Jeep also is surging from customers shopping for crossovers and sport utilities instead of sedans.
Utility vehicles overtook sedans for the first time in May to become the most popular vehicle style in the United States. The segment continues to gain traction.
Mr. Lyman thinks much of that momentum correlates with consumer confidence and overall economic recovery.
“The job market is coming back and people are getting more confident they’re going to keep getting those paychecks, and they’re willing to pay a little extra money to get that utility vehicle they can do more with, have more fun with, and carry more people in than a traditional passenger sedan,” he said.
They’re also betting they can fill the gas tank. Though many smaller SUVs and crossovers, such as the Cherokee, can get 30-plus miles per gallon, SUVs still tend to be thirstier than their sedan competition.
Subaru, up 27 percent in July, also has benefited from the push toward crossovers, as did General Motors Co.
GM said sales of crossovers and trucks was up double-digits for the month, helping push the company to a 10 percent increase over last year.
“Sales of utility vehicles soared in July because American families feel better about the economy than they have in a long time, and they are finding an incredible variety of redesigned and all-new models in our showrooms,” GM vice president Kurt McNeil said in a statement. “Small, compact, medium, large — sales were strong across the board.”
July was good to most automakers, though.
Ford was up 10 percent, while Nissan was up 11 percent, and Toyota 12 percent. Kia’s sales grew by 7 percent over last year, with sister-company Hyundai posting a modest 2 percent gain.
Honda was one of the few losers, dropping a surprising 4 percent as its Acura luxury division dragged on sales. Though the Acura MDX crossover performed well, sales of every one of Acura’s other six models fell.
“Our July sales were definitely impacted by a lack of sedan availability as we sold out of TSX and TL,” Acura Vice President Mike Accavitti said in a statement. “We’re confident that the all-new TLX luxury performance sedan, arriving at dealers now, will quickly remedy the situation and drive Acura sales growth through the second half of the year.”