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U.S. auto sales thrown into reverse in June

DETROIT — Americans' enthusiasm for new cars and trucks cooled in June on worries about the economy, signaling that the auto industry's recovery is far from certain.

GM, Ford and Chrysler said sales of new cars and trucks fell between 12 and 13 percent in June from the prior month. Sales at Toyota slid 14 percent. Hyundai, however, bucked the trend with a slight gain.

People are holding off on big-ticket purchases because they remain anxious about unemployment and home values. Tightfisted consumers could mean a tough summer for automakers, who hope to improve sales after a dismal 2009.

"The market remains very challenging and the recovery continues to be at a very gradual and modest pace," said Bob Carter, a Toyota vice president.

Industrywide auto sales rose 14 percent from June 2009, when the industry was in the depths of its downturn and General Motors and Chrysler were either in bankruptcy or headed for it. But May-to-June sales fell more than 10 percent.

Paul Ballew, a former GM chief economist who now works for Nationwide Insurance, said the most recent sales drop shows consumers are wary of mixed economic news.

"We have a recovery that certainly is struggling to gain momentum," he said.

June sales often fall from May, which benefits from big sales over Memorial Day weekend. But this June's decline is much larger than the usual 5 percent, said Jesse Toprak of auto pricing site TrueCar.com.

Automakers are still predicting a gradual recovery in the last half of the year. Most expect full-year sales of between 11.5 million and 12 million, an improvement from the historic low of 10.4 million last year, but still well below the record high of more than 17 million in 2000.

The auto industry's struggles could offer one bit of good news for consumers. The weaker results could tempt automakers to extend more sales promotions, like low-cost leases, zero-percent financing and cash rebates, analysts said. But buyers may have to wait for sweeter deals. In June, automakers averaged $2,661 in incentive spending per vehicle last month, down $36 from May, according to the automotive website Edmunds.com.

DOWN: GM, Ford, Chrysler

Sales of new cars and trucks fell 12 to 13 percent for all in June.

UP: Hyundai

The Korean automaker was the only one to post gains from the previous month, up 4 percent in June.

. FAST FACTS

How others fared

Toyota: Sales fell nearly 14 percent from May but rose 7 percent over June of last year.

Nissan: Sales dropped 23 percent from May but were up 11 percent from June 2009.

Honda: Sales slipped 9 percent from May but rose 6 percent over June of last year.

Subaru: U.S. sales fell about 9 percent from May.

U.S. auto sales thrown into reverse in June 07/01/10 [Last modified: Friday, July 2, 2010 8:02am]

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