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Bigger incentives by automakers juice July vehicle sales

VehiclesTrucksAutomotive EquipmentManufacturing and EngineeringKelley Blue Book LLC
July auto sales best for the month since 2006
Chrysler and Nissan leading surge in July auto sales

July is turning out to be a torrid month for auto sales.

By the time the numbers are tallied Friday, automakers are forecast to have sold 1.4 million vehicles this month, up about 10% from the same month a year earlier, according to the analysts at car shopping company TrueCar.com.

Kelley Blue Book, another car sales information company, estimates the pace is even faster -- 11.6% to nearly 1.5 million vehicles.

Either way it would be the highest July sales since 2006.

“Shoppers are looking past news of recalls and rising gas prices and they’re finding affordable interest rates and other incentives that make it easier to buy a new car,” said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst at car shopping information company Edmunds.com.

A little cash is greasing sales.

Automakers are spending an average of $2,731 per vehicle on incentives this month, up 7.1% from the same month a year earlier, according to TrueCar.com.

“While some of the growth is powered by incentive spending up $200 per vehicle, we are seeing continued strong demand for trucks and utility vehicles,” said John Krafcik, president of TrueCar.

Although most manufacturers are participating in the sales boom, Chrysler looks to be the fastest growing with a 20% gain over a year ago, said Alec Gutierrez, an analyst at Kelley Blue Book. The Jeep SUV and Ram truck brands are driving Chrysler’s growth, but the recently redesigned Chrysler 200 also should offer a boost to the automaker in July, he said.

Nissan also is gaining market share in the U.S. this month, he said.

“So far this year, Nissan has increased sales of its three biggest sellers, Altima, Rogue and Sentra, by 18%,” Gutierrez said. “This is especially impressive considering overall industry sales of compact and mid-size cars have slowed this year.”

New-vehicle retail transaction prices in July averaged more than $29,000, the highest level ever for the month of July, according to J.D. Power & Associates, the auto industry market research firm.

“The industry continues to demonstrate healthy growth, not just with retail-sales volume, but also with transaction prices,” said John Humphrey, senior vice president of the global automotive practice at J.D. Power.

High transaction prices and robust sales growth adds up to consumers spending more than $36 billion on new vehicles in July. That would be the highest for the month of July since 2005 and an increase of $3 billion from July 2013, Humphrey said.

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