DETROIT — Car shoppers were worried about the U.S. economy last month, and that kept sales in a funk.
U.S. sales of new cars and light trucks are expected to have risen only slightly in July. The weak economy and high sticker prices kept Americans from buying more. Automakers are scheduled to report last month's sales today.
July extended a disappointing stretch for automakers after a strong start this year. Sales slowed in May and June after an earthquake in Japan cut into supplies of small cars that were in demand because of high gas prices. Those shortages — and higher car prices — turned off many buyers.
Edmunds.com said supply constraints began to ease for Japanese automakers in July. Sales are forecast at 1.06 million, up 1.6 percent from last July, according to the automotive website.
Toyota has been producing eight of its 12 North American-built cars and SUVs at full capacity since the start of June, and in July those vehicles reached dealer lots. Toyota's U.S. sales will probably fall compared with last July's, but they're up 21 percent from June.
Honda and Nissan were also expected to sell more vehicles in July than they did in June.
But unemployment is high, and consumers' confidence in the economy — which is crucial for car sales— remains low.
Car prices remain relatively high, too, for buyers who have become accustomed to big summertime sales.