US auto sales expected to hit new record in first 6 months

Auto Sales Lincoln SUV
In this Thursday, June 5, 2014, file photo, a row of 2014 Lincoln MKX SUVs are lined up on the lot of the dealership in Wexford, Pa. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

DETROIT (AP) — U.S. auto sales may be slowing, but they’re still expected to set a record in the first six months of this year.

Sales through June were expected to be up 2 percent over last year to 8.66 million, according to Kelley Blue Book.

That was partly due to a strong June, which saw sales rebound after a disappointing May. Sales were expected to rise 5.4 percent to more than 1.5 million, according to the car buying site TrueCar.com. Ford, Fiat Chrysler and Nissan all reported gains for the month. Sales were down at General Motors.

After six straight years of growth — and record sales of 17.5 million last year— U.S. sales are beginning to plateau. In the first six months of last year, for example, sales were up 4 percent, or double the pace of this year. But low gas prices, low interest rates, enticing new vehicles and strong consumer confidence should keep them at a very high level.

“As long as economic conditions — like low unemployment and easy access to credit — continue, the industry will be in a strong position through the busy summer sales months,” said Jessica Caldwell, director of industry analysis for the car shopping site Edmunds.com.

General Motors Co. said its sales dropped 2 percent to 255,210, due in part to ongoing cuts in sales to low-profit rental car companies. GM said its rental sales are down 37 percent so far this year. Cadillac sales were up 6 percent and Chevrolet sales were flat compared to last June, but Buick and GMC sales were down.

Ford Motor Co.’s sales rose 6 percent to 240,109. Sales of its F-Series pickup — the nation’s best-selling vehicle — jumped 29 percent to nearly 71,000 vehicles, or more than one every minute. But car sales fell 12 percent thanks to Americans’ growing preference for SUVs. Sales at Fords luxury Lincoln brand were up 6 percent.

Fiat Chrysler said its June sales rose 7 percent to 197,073. Jeep sales jumped 17 percent and Ram truck sales were up 14 percent. But car sales suffered. Chrysler brand sales fell 20 percent, while Fiat sales dropped 19 percent.

Nissan Motor Co.’s sales jumped 13 percent to 140,553. Sales of its new Maxima sedan more than doubled over last year.

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