Hurt by increased competition from imports and the removal of sales incentives, U.S. auto manufacturers posted their first monthly sales decline of the year in June, the industry reported Wednesday.
Sales of U.S.-built cars fell 3.2% last month, while import sales rose 16.7%, the auto makers said. Strength in sales of foreign makes pushed total sales for the month up 1.5% from the year before.
The domestic auto companies said they sold 676,675 passenger cars last month, compared to sales of 727,370 in June, 1984. Imports sold an estimated 252,000 cars in June, up from last year's 224,500, and claimed 27.1% of the U.S. market in June--their highest monthly share since August, 1983.
Combined domestic and import sales totaled 928,675 in June, compared to 951,870 last year.
Since there were 25 selling days in June this year and 26 last year, percentage changes are calculated on a daily selling rate basis.
Industry analysts noted that the increased sales of imports, especially Japanese, were expected because of the loosening of Japanese import restraints last April. But analysts still believe that the imports' market share should level off at about 25% by the end of the year.
"The import market share was down in the first four months of this year," said David Healy, an auto analyst with Drexel Burnham Lambert. "It should take several more months to average out."
In addition, analysts said that domestic sales were hurt by the ending of discount financing programs offered by domestic firms on some models.
"I do not think the decline (by domestic manufacturers) is astonishing in light of the incentives coming off," Healy said. He added that he would expect sales of U.S.-built cars to pick up if major consumer incentive programs are started again.
General Motors said its sales were off 15% in the final 10 days of June, resulting in a 5.7% decline for the month.
Ford and Chrysler reported sales declines of 8.1% and 7.7%, respectively, in the June 21-30 period. For the entire month, sales at both firms were virtually flat compared to last June.
Of the major import manufacturers, only Toyota and Subaru reported sales declines for the month.
On a seasonally adjusted annual basis, June's sales equaled an annual rate of 7.9 million cars, off sharply from the 8.7-million annual rate recorded in May.
Imports sold at an annual rate of 3 million cars, up slightly from the 2.9-million annual rate posted in May.
The annual rate is a reflection of the number of cars that would be sold if the June pace were to continue for a year.
"June's sales were soft," Healy said, "but we are still seeing a pretty good year."
Auto Sales Percentage changes in auto sales for the month of June are based on daily rates rather than total sales volume. There were 25 selling days in the 1985 period and 26 selling days in the year-ago period.
June 1985 1984 change GM 381,471 420,527 -5.7 Ford 174,075 179,196 +1.0 Chrysler 90,065 92,301 +1.5 AMC* 9,066 16,700 -43.4 VW U.S. 6,908 6,599 -3.9 Honda U.S. 12,141 12,047 +5.0 Nissan U.S.* 3,759 -- -- DOMESTIC 676,675 727,370 -3.2 Toyota 52,125 57,836 -6.3 Nissan 53,473 46,398 +19.8 Honda 35,414 29,882 +23.3 Mazda 16,175 14,223 +18.3 Subaru 14,554 14,306 -4.0 Volvo 9,458 9,206 +6.8 VW Imports 12,260 8,837 +44.1 Others* 58,541 43,812 +39.0 IMPORTS 252,000 224,500 +16.7 TOTAL U.S. 928,675 951,870 +1.5