June 26, 2014 at 10:33 pm

Chrysler chief: June sales expected to rise, overall industry sales may be flat

Chelsea —Chrysler Group LLC sales chief Reid Bigland said Thursday he expects the company’s June sales will be up from the same month in 2013, while he predicts overall U.S industry sales to be flat or down as much as 2 percent.

His estimate echoes analyst forecasts for the industry which range from a slight uptick of about 1 percent to declines of more than 3 percent from June 2013.

Bigland, speaking to reporters during a media event at Chrysler’s Chelsea Proving Grounds, said he expects Chrysler will hit 51 consecutive months of sales gains in June. But he said this month has fewer selling days than June 2013 and than May, which was a strong sales month.

“It’s certainly not feeling as robust as May,” Bigland said. “And I’m not sure how much of that has to do with fewer selling days and no real holiday weekends, which can often be pretty good selling weekends.”

June has 24 selling days compared to 26 in June 2013, according to J.D. Power and LMC Automotive which predicts sales will fall about 2 percent year-over-year.

“It’s important to recognize that June sales are being heavily influenced by a quirk of the industry sales calendar,” John Humphrey, senior vice president of J.D. Power’s global automotive practice, said in a statement.

Bigland said he sees no underlying issues with the year’s sales pace as pent-up demand, an improving economy and credit availability continue for consumers.

U.S. auto sales so far this year are up about 5 percent and Bigland expects overall industry sales to rise between 2 percent and 6 percent in 2014. He doesn’t expect U.S. sales to hit 17 million this year, but that sales will continue “on a slow trajectory upwards.”

“Eventually in the next two to three years, I think we’ll get back to a 17 million (annual sales mark) handily and then stabilize from there,” he said.

Bigland predicts sales of Chrysler’s just-introduced 2015 200 sedan to be in the 3,000 range in June, up from 300 last month. He expects sales to increase as inventory builds on dealer lots.

Chrysler is working to increase production of the diesel engine in Europe that powers the 2014 Ram EcoDiesel pickup. Bigland said demand for the diesel model — which many customers say is topping the 28 miles per gallon fuel economy label — has exceeded expectations.

“Frankly, the demand for diesel has really surprised us,” he said.

The diesel version of the truck is sitting on dealer lots for an average of just 13 days, and demand for the diesel engine is about 20 percent of sales. The company is currently building at about 5 percent, Bigland said.

“We’re going to be able to meet that demand, it’s just going to take us a few months,” he said.

mburden@detroitnews.com
(313) 222-2319
Twitter.com/MBurden_DN