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Chrysler sales grow for 28th straight month in July

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — Chrysler extended its streak of U.S. sales gains to 28 straight months in July, while General Motors and Ford posted surprise drops as the industry tracks its best year since 2007.

Chrysler, the automaker controlled by Fiat, increased deliveries by 13 percent last month. GM deliveries fell 6.4 percent and Ford light-vehicle sales slipped 3.8 percent.

The sales results further illustrate Chrysler's recovery since it emerged from bankruptcy in June 2009 after a rescue by the U.S. government.

Chrysler plans to raise its full-year profit outlook of $1.5 billion after the third quarter following $909 million of net income in the first half, chief financial officer Richard Palmer said.

"We don't see a slowdown in the second half of the year" in U.S. industry sales, Palmer said.

Total U.S. light-vehicle deliveries probably rose 11 percent in July to 1.17 million, the average estimate of 11 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. The industry has bolstered the U.S. economy with first-half sales up 15 percent, setting a pace for the best annual total in five years.

Light-vehicle sales in the U.S. climbed to 7.27 million through June, according to Autodata Corp. The industry is on a pace for a third straight year of at least 10 percent increases, the first such streak since 1973.

Among Japanese automakers, Toyota's deliveries rose 26 percent, Nissan's gained 16 percent and Honda's surged 45 percent.

GM and Ford blamed their sales declines on lower fleet sales. Deliveries to fleet buyers, which include government agencies and rental-car companies, plunged 41 percent for GM and 16 percent for Ford from a year earlier.

Slower growth in U.S. pickup sales in the first half helped Toyota pass GM in global deliveries. Toyota's worldwide sales rose 34 percent in the first six months of the year to 4.97 million, leading GM by 300,000 and Volkswagen by 520,000 deliveries.

GM global sales rose 2.9 percent to 4.67 million during the first half while Volkswagen's increased 8.9 percent to 4.45 million.

Sales for the Volkswagen brand rose 27 percent to 37,014, led by a 661 percent surge for the Passat sedan to 9,007.

"We're seeing the momentum continuing despite a pretty competitive environment and this gradual economic recovery we're seeing across the country," said Jonathan Browning, CEO of Volkswagen's U.S. sales unit.

Hyundai's sales rose 4.1 percent from a year ago, while those of affiliate Kia increased 5.6 percent. Combined sales for the Seoul-based carmakers, which operate separately, expanded 4.8 percent in July.

Chrysler is counting on new models in the second half, such as the Dart and revamped Ram 1500 pickup, to maintain its momentum in the U.S. The company ran a national promotion in July for all vehicles in its lineup that let buyers defer monthly payments for the first 90 days after purchase.

Chrysler's new models next year include updates to the Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV in the first quarter, followed by a replacement to the Jeep Liberty SUV and a refreshed Ram heavy- duty pickup in mid 2013, Palmer, the CFO, said.

July gains, losses

Percent change in sales for major automakers in July compared with July 2011:

Honda+45%
Volkswagen+27%
Toyota+26%
Nissan+16%
Chrysler+13%
Kia+5.6%
Hyundai+4.1%
Ford-3.8%
General Motors-6.4%
Honda+45%
Volkswagen+27%
Toyota+26%
Nissan+16%
Chrysler+13%
Kia+5.6%
Hyundai+4.1%
Ford-3.8%
General Motors-6.4%

Chrysler sales grow for 28th straight month in July 08/01/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 9:02pm]

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