Despite the sluggish economy, U.S. vehicle sales rose 0.3% in June, surprising analysts and executives who have been expecting sales to fall back from last year's record pace. Economists said improving economic fundamentals along with interest rate and tax cuts could make 2001 the third-best year ever for auto sales.
Imports accounted for nearly all the gains, however, with General Motors Corp. falling 3% and Ford Motor Co. down 6.6%. DaimlerChrysler Corp.'s American brands under the Chrysler Group umbrella managed a 1% gain.
Toyota, BMW and Acura were the big gainers, their mostly new sport-utility vehicles gaining market share against the Americans.