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Detroit 3 can ride out storm

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Detroit 3 can ride out storm

Chrysler leads major automakers with 35.4% gain for June



Even if the U.S. economic recovery continues to sputter and automotive sales gain more slowly than expected, the domestic automakers are well-positioned to ride out the tough market because they have tightly managed their inventories and are offering some hot new products.

In June, U.S. consumers purchased 983,738 cars and trucks. That was a gain of 14.4% from last June, when overall sales were down 35% as GM entered bankruptcy and Chrysler was just emerging.

Still, the performance translated into a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 11.1 million -- a decline from May, when it was 11.6 million. The SAAR indicates what sales would total for the year if demand remained constant over 12 months, adjusting for seasonal factors.

All major automakers posted sales gains last month -- sales were up at 11.9% at GM, 13.4% at Ford and 35.4% at Chrysler -- and most also held their market share steady, with a few exceptions.

Chrysler gained 1.5 percentage points of share and Hyundai also gained nearly a point.

Meanwhile, Toyota lost a point even though its incentives increased by $547 per car, according to Autodata.

"If you look at the results of the Detroit 3, they are doing a better job, led by Ford," said George Magliano, an economist with IHS Automotive.

Still, Michael Robinet, an automotive analyst for IHS Automotive, noted, "The increase of the sales rate could look somewhat glacial for the next couple of months."

Detroit's automakers are so far prepared for that. Robinet said each of the domestic automakers has tightly managed inventory. That means production at U.S. factories should stay on track.

In fact, most of GM's plants are to continue running through the traditional summer shutdown.

"We're adding shifts and in some places we are keeping plants open that would normally be down for summer maintenance," GM CEO Ed Whitacre told the Free Press on Thursday.

Jerry Seiner, a dealer in Utah who sells all four GM brands, said he needs more large SUVs and pickups at his dealership.

"Our sales today are being held down a little bit because of a lack of inventory," Seiner said.

GM's sales increase was led by the continued success of its midsize crossovers and an increase in its pickup sales.

As a group, sales of GM's Chevrolet Traverse, Buick Enclave and GMC Acadia increased 39% in June. Sales of GM's Chevrolet Silverado pickups increased 25.1% and sales of GMC Sierra pickups increased 26.9%.

Sales of GM's four core brands that it kept after bankruptcy last year -- Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick and GMC -- increased 36% in June.

"These results are evidence that our plan is working," said GM Vice President Steve Carlisle.

Chrysler sales were up 35.4%, led by its Jeep and Dodge brands. The company would not comment on its fleet sales. Jesse Toprak, an industry analyst with TrueCar.com, estimates Chrysler's fleet sales accounted for 40% of its sales compared with about 20% for the industry.

Meanwhile, Ford's sales are now up 27% for the first six months of the year.

"This was the largest first-half increase since 1984," said Ken Czubay, Ford's vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service.



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