DETROIT — U.S. buyers snapped up new cars and trucks in June at a pace not seen since before the recession.
Continuing demand for big pickups helped boost sales for Detroit's automakers, while Japanese rivals reported solid gains as well.
Analysts say they don't see much that could slow the sales momentum of the first six months. The factors that juiced sales — low interest rates, wider credit availability, rising home construction and hot new vehicles — are likely to remain in place. So far, hiccups in the stock market, higher taxes and fluctuating gas prices haven't dampened demand.
"I think the fundamentals for continued growth in the new vehicle sales industry are intact," Chrysler's U.S. sales chief, Reid Bigland, said last week.
Analysts estimate that U.S. auto sales rose 6 to 8 percent in June compared with the same month last year. The auto pricing site TrueCar.com predicts that dealers sold cars and trucks at an annualized rate of 15.7 million last month, the best rate since December 2007.
Sales of pickups — which have been selling at a rate three times faster than the rest of the industry — continued at a strong pace in June.
Ford sold more than 68,000 F-Series trucks, up 24 percent from last June and its best June for trucks since 2005. GM said sales of the Chevrolet Silverado jumped 29 percent to 43,259, while Chrysler Group sold nearly 30,000 full-size Ram pickups, up 24 percent from last June. Small businesses have been replacing their aging trucks as home construction has picked up.
Sales of Ford's recently updated Fiesta subcompact more than doubled to 9,363, while sales of the subcompact Honda Fit were up 10 percent. Sales of the Hyundai Elantra small car jumped 26 percent to more than 22,000.
Auto loan rates remained near historic lows in June. The rate on a four-year new car loan is averaging 2.7 percent, according to Bankrate.com.
Ford said two of its bestsellers, the Fusion sedan and Escape SUV, were flat compared with last year, when the company was discounting older models to make way for the updated ones that are now on sale. Ford's Lincoln luxury brand was down 1 percent.
Chrysler said Jeep sales were flat as the company halted production of the Liberty to get ready for the launch of the new Jeep Cherokee in August.
Honda reported strong sales of family haulers for the summer road trip season. Sales of the Odyssey minivan — which will be replaced by an updated model this month — jumped 26 percent, while the CR-V small SUV was up 14 percent.