DETROIT -- U.S. automakers are expected to register a dramatic decline in July vehicle sales from a year earlier when heavy discounts stoked near-record sales. At the same time, high gas prices are driving many buyers toward more fuel-efficient models, a segment Asian manufacturers still dominate.
Sales of new cars and trucks, to be reported Tuesday, are expected to total about 1.54 million units, a 15% decrease from July 2005, according to estimates by automotive information service Edmunds.com in Santa Monica.
Nevertheless, July should be stronger than June, when 1.5 million vehicles were sold in the U.S., said Michael Maroone, president and chief operating officer of AutoNation Inc., the country’s largest auto retailer.
Many customers last month were “waiting for the next incentive program,” he told the Associated Press.
Summer incentives have paled in comparison with those last year, when the domestic automakers offered customers the chance to buy vehicles at the discounted prices their employees paid.
With General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler’s Chrysler Group all running the programs, 1.8 million vehicles were sold last July. That made for a seasonally adjusted annual sales rate of 20.8 million units -- the highest since October 2001.
Some customers probably will continue to hold out for discounts, which they are accustomed to seeing in the summer, Edmunds.com President Jeremy Anwyl said.
“It’s a game of chicken between the deal seekers and the car companies,” he said.
Motorists looking for blowout deals this year for the most part have been disappointed. Only Chrysler is running the employee discount promotion, which it resumed at the end of June, offering 10% off sticker prices, along with three-year, interest-free financing, on most 2006 models.
Ford has been offering five-year, no-interest financing on most models, along with a prepaid debit card that can be used to buy as much as $1,000 of gas. The promotion ends today.
GM has been trying hard to wean itself from incentives but has not cut them completely. It offered interest-free financing for as long as six years on most of its models for one week ending July 5 and recently began offering discounts and no-interest financing on specific models until Sept. 5.
Slower sales of large sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks are leaving GM, Ford and Chrysler Group particularly vulnerable. The domestic Big Three depend on big trucks for much of their sales and profits.
From the Associated Press
The Week Ahead
* Treasury bill auction.
* Avon Products, MetLife, Tyson Foods and UAL release quarterly earnings.
* Commerce Department reports on personal income and spending for June. Data on construction spending for June also are expected.
* Institute for Supply Management reports on activity in the manufacturing economy during July.
* Automakers release sales figures for July.
* Archer Daniels Midland, Burger King Holdings, Eastman Kodak, Electronic Arts, Hilton Hotels, InterActiveCorp, International Paper, Molson Coors Brewing, Sirius Satellite Radio, Valero Energy, Verizon Communications and Vonage Holdings release quarterly earnings.
* Cigna, Las Vegas Sands, MasterCard, Napster, Procter & Gamble, Prudential Financial, Starbucks and Time Warner release quarterly earnings.
* The nation’s largest retailers announce July sales figures.
* Labor Department reports on weekly jobless claims.
* Commerce Department reports on factory orders for June.
* Freddie Mac reports on mortgage rates.
* CBS, DreamWorks Animation SKG, Duke Energy, Gateway, Marsh & McLennan, MGM Mirage, Morningstar, Revlon, Sprint Nextel, Tyco International, Univision Communications and Warner Music Group release quarterly earnings.
* Labor Department reports on employment for July.
* Berkshire Hathaway, Occidental Petroleum and Washington Post release quarterly earnings.
* Deadline for auto parts maker Delphi . to file its plan to emerge from bankruptcy protection.
From the Associated Press