U.S. auto sales roll to impressive July

The Detroit Three thriving on pickup sales, data show

DETROIT — General Motors Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. posted particularly strong sales in July, with most major automakers enjoying the second-best month since 2007 as Americans indulged their voracious appetite for pickup trucks and smaller cars.

Toyota outsold Ford Motor Co. in July for the first time since March 2010, and Honda edged out Chrysler Group LLC for the U.S. industry's fourth-highest sales.

Ford said it sold 193,715 cars and trucks in July, but that number includes medium- and heavy-duty trucks. According to Autodata, Ford sold 193,080 passenger cars and trucks, just less than the 193,394 sold by Toyota.

The Detroit Three continued to thrive on pickups, which are among their most profitable models. While each domestic company had particular car models that sold well, Toyota and Honda maintained their dominance in the compact and midsize car segments. Toyota's Lexus luxury brand had a very strong month.

"I think the story of July was the fact that we have seen strength in two opposite segments — small cars and small SUVs have done quite well, and we have continued to see the strengthening of sales of large pickups," said Jesse Toprak, vice president of industry trends at TrueCar.com.

Sales of the Ford Fiesta compact surged 89 percent in July from a low year-earlier level. Chevrolet Cruze sales jumped 70 percent to 25,447.

GM saw its sales rise 16.3 percent. Ford's sales rose by 11.3 percent and Chrysler's by 11.1 percent.

Among Asian automakers, Toyota's sales were up 17.3 percent, Honda's were up 21 percent, and Nissan's increased 11 percent.

On annual basis, the auto industry's July's sales pace topped 15.7 million, down slightly from June's 16 million annual rate.

Ford car sales are hindered by dwindling inventories, especially for the Focus and Fusion. The company is adding a shift at its Flat Rock, Mich., plant to boost Fusion production.

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