Detroit Three Report Double-Digit Sales Gains in July

DETROIT ( TheStreet) -- The Detroit Three all reported double-digit sales gains in July as a robust auto industry benefited from rising sales of pickup trucks and small cars, with particularly strong growth on the retail side.

GM ( GM) said sales rose 16%, while Ford ( F) and Chrysler reported 11% sales gains.

"July can best be described as robust for the industry and for Ford," said Ford analyst Eric Merkle on the Ford sales call. He estimated overall industry sales gains of 14%. He said he expects industry pickup sales to gain 24% in July.

GM said it saw gains across the board, with passenger car sales up 24% and Cadillac sales up 34% and full-size pickups up 44%. "For GM, July was the most well-balanced month of the year from a retail sales standpoint: trucks were hot, but so were small cars and family vehicles," said Kurt McNeil, vice president, U.S. sales operations, in a prepared statement. GM's new 2014 trucks accounted for about 15% of the pickup truck sales.

GM said retail sales rose 23% while fleet sales declined 6%."The difference between good sales and great sales in a slow-growth economy is how many new products you have to offer, and we are starting to hit our sweet spot" with new vehicle introductions, McNeil said.

Ford said July 2013 was its best July since 2006, as retail sales rose 19%. Ford small cars -- Fiesta, Focus and C-MAX hybrids -- gained 32%, driving retail share gains on both the east and west coasts. Meanwhile, F-Series reported its best July since 2006 with sales up 23% to 60,449.

"We saw continued strength and growth in our retail business, particularly in the coastal regions of the country," said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. marketing, sales and service, in a prepared statement. "Our small cars and hybrids continue to attract new customers to Ford and away from our competitors."

All three Ford utility vehicles are on pace to set sales records this year, with Escape up 4% in July to 22,343 vehicles sold, Explorer up 13% to 12,742 vehicles sold and Edge up 15% to 10,541 vehicles sold.

Lincoln sales fell 0.8% to 6,919 and Fusion sales fell 12% to 20,522. "Fusion supply remains very tight," Czubay said on the sales call.

Chrysler said the Jeep, Dodge, Ram Truck and FIAT brands each posted year-over-year sales gains in July. compared with the same month a year ago. The Ram Truck brand's 31% increase was the largest sales gain of any Chrysler Group brand.

"We continue to see strong retail sales, particularly with our pickup trucks and SUVs, and that has helped to propel Chrysler Group to our 40th-consecutive month of year-over-year sales growth," said Reid Bigland, head of U.S. Sales, in a prepared statement.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

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