U.S. auto sales set to maintain hot pace in July

Wed Jul 31, 2013 3:03pm EDT
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By Ben Klayman

DETROIT (Reuters) - Long Island car dealer Gary Brown is enjoying the summer heat brought on by consumers' increasing demand for new cars and trucks, and like the rest of the industry, expects sales in July will continue the trend.

"We're still on fire," the owner of Brown's Jeep Chrysler in Patchogue, New York, said. "We're going to be up over June and we're going to beat last year by 10, 12 percent or so. There's a lot of demand in the market place."

Partly driven by an improving housing market that has boosted demand for full-size pickup trucks, U.S. auto sales in July are expected to rise 14 percent to 16 percent when automakers report results on Thursday. Research firm Edmunds.com forecasts the strongest July sales since 2006.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expect the annual sales rate in the month to hit 15.8 million vehicles, which would be the second best performance of the year after June's 16 million.

"Stability is really the story," TrueCar.com analyst Jesse Toprak said. "I know it doesn't make a great headline."

Monthly sales are regarded as an early indicator of the U.S. economy's health. The industry has held up better than the broader economy because of easier access to credit and consumers' need to replace aging vehicles, which now average more than 11 years.

Adding to the optimism, the Commerce Department on Wednesday said U.S. economic growth unexpectedly accelerated in the second quarter.

In June, new-car sales rose 9 percent, racing to the industry's strongest monthly pace since late 2007 as the stronger housing market drove demand for brawny pickups. Sales of big trucks have grown three times faster than the overall sector.   Continued...

A woman walks by vehicles for sale at a Toyota dealership in Pasadena, California October 10, 2012. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni