US automakers see sales decline 9% in July

Wednesday, August 1st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DETROIT (AP) _ U.S. automakers saw total vehicles sales drop more than 9 percent in July compared with the year-ago period.

Sales of vehicles produced by General Motors Corp. were off 8.8 percent, Ford Motor Co. saw a 14 percent sales decline and vehicle sales at the Chrysler Group of DaimlerChrysler AG were off more than 3 percent.

GM efforts to beef up its pickup truck and sport utility line are reaping benefits with light truck sales up 2 percent last month. Sales of GM passenger cars however dropped 19 percent and company sales analyst Paul Bellew said improving the performance in that segment would be a challenge.

For the first seven months of the year, GM sales are off 6.6 percent.

Ford passenger car sales dropped 18 percent and light truck sales were off 11 percent. While Ford said its Explorer sport utility vehicle recorded its second best July sales month in its history, last month's sales of the SUV were off almost 9 percent from July 2000.

Ford sales analyst George Pipas said despite the falloff, Explorer had maintained its share of the sport utility vehicle segment with 27.7 percent of sales. Its upscale mate, the Mercury Mountaineer, however, saw sales increase by 19 percent from July of last year.

Sales of the Ford Focus, an entry-level compact car, plummeted almost 29 percent last month.

Pipas said it was becoming increasingly difficult for U.S. automakers to maintain market share because of competition from European and Asian manufacturers.

``Many foreign brands are expanding their lineups and are competing in segments where they didn't compete,'' Pipas said.

Specifically, the imports are becoming more aggressive in the light truck and sport utility vehicle segments, he said.

For the first seven months of the year, Ford's total vehicle sales were down 12.1 percent from the same period a year ago.

The Chrysler Group's passenger car sales fell 11 percent, while truck sales were off 1 percent from July 2000.

Chrysler minivans, however continued their strength, showing a 1 percent increase in sales in July compared with the same month a year ago.

Year to date, Chrysler Group sales are off 9.5 percent.

Sales figures from the U.S. automakers do not include their foreign brands.

U.S. sales for Honda Motor Co. were off 6 percent last month but up 3 percent for the year so far.

The North American unit of Swedish automaker Volvo Car Corp. reported U.S. sales up 31 percent from July 2000, powered by strong sales of its S40, S60 and Cross Country vehicles. For the year, Volvo's U.S. sales were up 1.5 percent from the first seven months of 2000.

``With our momentum rising, we foresee a strong second half for the year,'' said Vic Doolan, president and CEO of Volvo of North America Inc.

German automakers Volkswagen AG, Audi AG and BMW AG all reported strong U.S. sales in July.

Sales of Volkswagen vehicles were up more than 6 percent, with passenger cars up about 6 percent and light trucks 70 percent, its best July sales since 1973.

Audi reported its best July ever with vehicle sales rising 22 percent over July 2000. BMW saw its July sales increase 26 percent from July 2000, and up 21.5 percent for the year to date.

Sales of Jaguar vehicles fell 25.4 percent in July, mainly due to a 56 percent falloff in sales of its S-type model. Jaguar is a unit of Ford.

Japanese automaker Subaru said it had a record July with 7 percent better sales than July 2000.

Isuzu sales declined by 27 percent from July a year ago, while South Korean automaker Daewoo Motors reported a 71 percent increase.