June was a stellar month for auto sales, the best since December of 2007. You remember that date, right? It was right before the recession, which sent the auto industry into a tailspin that some thought was a one-way trip. No way, the industry is back right where it was before darkness descended.
Let me take you back five years. U.S. car and truck sales fell 18 percent in 2008, a loss of three million vehicles. Surveying the grim wreckage in January of 2009, USA Today wrote that “the industry continues to reel from the gas price surge, housing collapse and banking crisis.” But that was then. The carmakers are back, baby. If “annualized,” last month’s results would result in a 16-million sales year. And, again, that is likely to be the best results since 2007.
The biggest winner was Jaguar, up 59 percent, followed by Subaru (up 42 percent), BMW (25 percent), Porsche (23 percent) and Dodge Ram (23 percent). General Motors was up 6.5 percent, and had its best month since September 2008. Remember what happened right after that best month, as the recession kicked in? Yes, GM went bankrupt, and Chrysler (up 8.2 percent), too.
Even in great months, there are losers. Brands suffering downturns include Scion (down 25 percent), Smart (down 23 percent), Infiniti (down 13 percent), Acura (down 10 percent) and Volvo (down six percent). Of course, some of these results are a bit misleading—Smart, for instance, was coming off some huge sales increases as the brand was taken over by Mercedes-Benz.
Americans bought 68,009 Ford F-150 pickups last month, and that’s been the bestselling vehicle in the country for a long time. The Toyota Camry (35,870 in June) is the car winner, but the Chevy Cruze (32,871) is coming on strong, beating the Honda Accord (31,677) by a whisker.
Auto sales results are always open to interpretation. For instance, Edmunds.com’s Jessica Caldwell looked at Hyundai’s 65,000 sales in June (a 1.9 percent increase) and turned thumbs down. Hyundai, she said…
...looks like it's feeling the pressure of competition from both domestic and Japanese automakers. Elantra and Santa Fe are the only vehicles in its lineup to post increases over last year allowing Hyundai to squeak by with a two percent year-over-year increase. Any growth is good but, this performance is well below the projected industry average.
But Jack Nerad of Kelley Blue Book, looking at the same results, thinks they’re rosy:
Not only did Hyundai set a record for June as the Elantra continues to grab shopper interest and the Santa Fe crossover SUV has hit the ground running, but the automaker would have moved the mark even higher if it would have been able to supply its dealers with more vehicles.
The truth, spokesman Jim Trainor told me, is that Hyundai is seriously supply constrained at the moment. That means it isn’t producing enough cars to meet demand, but selling what it can get. Some of this car sales stuff is complicated.