July 1, 2014 at 8:00 am

Auto sales in June beat analysts' expectations

Inventory of the all-new 2015 Chrysler 200 continues to build. Sales of the mid-size sedan topped 5,000 vehicles in June, and dealers take an average of 12 days to sell the vehicle. Nearly 600 Chrysler 200s were sold in May, its first month on sale. (Chrysler)

Better-than-expected June sales results capped off a strong first half of 2014 for Detroit’s Big Three automakers. And industry analysts predict more of the same during the second part of the year.

General Motors Co. continues to avoid negative sales fallout from its ongoing recall woes, while Chrysler Group LLC posted its 51st-straight month of sales gains.

Ford Motor Co. saw a drop as it phases out some older vehicles to make room for new models in the next few months.

Despite two fewer selling days than this time a year ago, GM and Chrysler both posted their best June sales in the United States since 2007, with increases of 1 percent and 9.2 percent, respectively. Ford Motor Co. sales declined 5.8 percent.

Those numbers follow strong results through the first half of 2014 that have automakers anticipating selling about 17 million vehicles this year, which hasn’t happened since before the recent recession.

“Early in the year, the harsh winter dampened sales, but pre-existing pent-up demand only strengthened during this time and, since the country warmed back up, car shoppers have been out in full force,” Edmunds.com senior analyst Jessica Caldwell said in a statement.

“Low interest rates and the proliferation of leasing — even in segments like compact sedans which are especially popular this time of year — have helped make the recent warmer months among the best in years, in terms of car sales.”

Analysts predicted GM’s June sales would be down, but strong sales of its Buick and GMC brands, which each posted the best June results since 2006, boosted overall results from a year ago.

“General Motors once again proves its amazing resiliency,” Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for AutoTrader.com, said in a statement. “Better-than-expected sales in June were reported against a backdrop of ugly news, from the unveiling of the victims compensation plan to another massive recall.”

The automaker recalled another 8.4 million vehicles Monday, bringing the total to more than 25.7 million vehicles in the United States and 29 million worldwide this year in 54 separate campaigns. Analysts attribute the continued strong sales to the way GM is handling the issues.

“Despite the whirlwind of recall coverage GM is experiencing, consumers are still buying GM vehicles in droves, thanks in part to the clear message that the new GM is focused on safety first,” said Akshay Anand, analyst for Kelley Blue Book’s KBB.com.

Ford Motor Co.’s 5.8 percent decline came despite record months for its Ford Fusion and Transit Connect.

Analysts say that’s a result of the company’s product life cycle: Popular vehicles like the Ford Mustang, F-150 and Edge will all be updated soon, and many buyers are waiting for the newest versions.

“Ford’s doing a great job at the end of the (F-150 and Mustang) life cycle,” said Eric Lyman, a TrueCar analyst.

June sales of Ford’s F-Series trucks were down 11 percent while Mustang sales fell 17.4 percent.

“There probably isn’t much panic over in Dearborn,” said KBB.com’s Anand. “Ford is in a ‘quiet period’ of sorts before two of its huge guns, the Mustang and F-Series trucks, hit dealer lots in full force with redesigns that are sure to shake up the automotive world.”

Chrysler’s sales of 171,086 vehicles last month marked its best June since 2007. Its Jeep, Dodge, Ram Truck and Fiat brands all posted gains, while the company’s Chrysler brand dropped 11.8 percent.

“In spite of two fewer selling days in June versus a year ago, we were able to increase our sales 9 percent and post our strongest June sales in seven years,” Reid Bigland, head of U.S. sales, said in a statement.

Jeep sales, which increased 27.8 percent, were aided by sales of 13,337 Cherokees, a new model that wasn’t sold at this time last year.

Inventory of the all-new 2015 Chrysler 200 grew in the mid-size sedan’s second month on sale.Dealers sold 7,345 of them in June, and the cars sit on the lot an average of only 12 days. Nearly 600 Chrysler 200s were sold in May, its first month on sale.

Chrysler beat most analyst projections, which pegged the automaker for sales increases between 2.1 percent and 8.9 percent.

Nissan Motor Co. reported a 5.3 percent increase. The automaker sold 109,643 vehicles in June, highlighted by a 33 percent jump in Versa sales, a June record.

“Nissan continues to show strong growth, thanks in part to its full lineup of vehicles across each and every segment,” KBB.com’s Anand said.

Among other automakers, the Volkswagen brand struggled, down 22 percent overall as it redesigns and relaunches of a number of products.

“The all-new Golf GTI is the first of many vehicles being built on VW’s global platform, and its sales growth is a positive sign,” Anand said. “As VW transitions over to its global architecture, sales should start to increase once again.”

The overall strong June sales numbers should continue during the second half of the year, barring unforeseen weather problems or other obstacles.

“What we thought was going to be a small decline in momentum (in June) turned out to be a really strong month,” said Edmunds.com analyst Jeremy Acevedo.

“It seems like the momentum is strong enough to carry through to the second half of the year.”

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