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U.S. LV Sales Surge as Pickups Continue to Soar

Executive Summary

Large-pickup deliveries rose 28.1% above year-ago in June, driving the segment’s market penetration upward to 11.8%. First-half sales of the big pickups shot up 21.2%, the highest gain of any of the major segments.

U.S. light-vehicle sales hit a long-time high on a seasonally adjusted annual sales basis in June, and kept the industry streak of year-over-year gains alive at 34 months.

After tracking at a 15.3 million-unit SAAR through the first five months, sales spiked to a 15.9 million rate last month, largely on the back of pent-up demand for large pickups.

The SAAR was the highest in 67 months and the best for June since 16.4 million in 2006.

Sales of cross/utility vehicles and small cars also outdid the industry average, but the year-over-year surge was rooted mostly in fullsize-pickup demand.

June LV sales totaled 1.397 million units for a daily rate of 53,742, 13.2% above year-ago’s 47,454 (26 selling days this year, 27 in like-2012). It was the strongest year-over-year gain since 14.9% in November.

First-half 2013 deliveries totaled 7.8 million units, 7.5% ahead of year-ago and the best January-June since 8.2 million in 2007. Barring a substantial impact from such potential headwinds as higher interest rates or a surge in fuel prices, sales are set to end the year between 15.4 million and 15.5 million, with demand for large pickups likely a main determinant in the final number.

Large-pickup deliveries soared 28.1% above year-ago in June, and the segment’s market penetration rose to 11.8% from like-2012’s 10.5%. First-half sales were up 21.2%, the highest jump of any of the major segments.

The Detroit Three, accounting for more than 90% of large-pickup sales, each posted strong double-digit gains in the segment.

General Motors led the way with a 33.8% increase over year-ago, followed by Chrysler’s Ram models, up 30.5%. Ford’s F-Series ran short of the segment pace, but still weighed in with a hefty 26.8% uptick.

Rounding out the sector, Toyota Tundra sales increased 14.6%, and the Nissan Titan declined by 42.1%.

Excluding large pickups, industry sales rose a solid 11.4% from year-ago.

Middle CUVs jumped 16.7%, and market penetration swelled to 16.1% from 15.6%. Middle CUV was the highest-volume segment for the second straight month, usurping Upper Middle Cars, which was the leader for first-half 2013 at 16.1%. Year-to-date, Middle CUV share stood at 15.8%.

Most of the higher-volume auto makers competing in the Middle CUV segment recorded gains over year-ago. Big winners included the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Edge, Honda CR-V, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Santa Fe, Mazda CX-5, Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, Subaru Outback and Toyota RAV-4 and Highlander.

One of the sector’s hottest sellers in 2013, the Ford Escape, posted a tepid 4.6% rise from year-ago but a more robust 23.2% improvement for the first half.

Middle SUVs notched 15.8% increase, with huge gains from Chrysler’s Dodge Durango (44.7%) and Jeep Grand Cherokee (38.1%); Ford’s Explorer (17.8%); and Toyota’s FJ Cruiser (33.6%). The Nissan Xterra and Toyota 4Runner, the only vehicles other than the FJ Cruiser with body-on-frame designs, posted declines from year-ago.

Combined sales of Middle CUVs and SUVs spiked 16.6% over year-ago, and market share rose to 19.3% from 18.7%.

Small-sized light vehicles – cars, CUVs and SUVs, including luxury nameplates – combined for a 16.3% unit increase in June and market share of 23.6%, vs. 22.9% year-ago. That occurred as average gasoline prices registered 2.6% above like-2012, based on government data. Slightly higher fuel prices could have been a factor, but part of the gain could have been a result of higher than normal inventory coming into the month.

Combined sales of large CUVs and SUVs rose 13.8%, led by the Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and Nissan Pathfinder. Thin inventory for GM’s large SUVs, which the auto maker blamed in part on strong fleet deliveries earlier in the year, likely pared some of the volume for the large utilities.

On the whole, nearly every segment posted a gain in June. Other major increases were recorded by Lower Luxury and Luxury Sport cars. The Mercedes SL and Porsche Cayman primed the sport-car segment, and the BMW 3-Series, Cadillac ATS, Mercedes C-Class, Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf, Lexus ES and Toyota Avalon sparked Lower Luxury.


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