Major automakers showed stronger-than-expected sales gains, as June U.S. auto sales rebounded from a disappointing May.
Auto sales are an early sign of consumer spending each month. The auto industry has been one of the bright spots in the U.S. economy this year, but deteriorating European markets have led industry executives to worry about possible contagion spreading to North America.
Last week, General Motors Co <GM.N> Chief Executive Dan Akerson said he expected sales for June would be "surprisingly strong" at an annualized sales rate of between 14 million and 14.2 million.
"We are looking for U.S. light vehicle sales for the industry to come in above 14 million," on a seasonally adjusted annualized basis, said GM spokesman Jim Cain on Tuesday.
On average, analysts surveyed by Reuters expect a 13.9 million annualized sales rate.
GM said its vehicle sales in June totaled 248,750, up 16 percent from the previous year. All four of GM's U.S. brands - Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC -- showed sales increases for the month. GM said June sales were its highest since September 2008.
Michelle Krebs, senior analyst with Edmunds.com, on Tuesday said sales were underpinned by pent-up demand, as consumers replaced older vehicles, low interest rates and marketing incentives linked to the Fourth of July holiday.
Ford <F.N> sales climbed 7 percent to 207,759 vehicles, according to the automaker, with strong sales of sedans, utility vehicles and pickup trucks.
Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> showed a 60-percent June sales increase as it has fully recovered from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which pressured sales for Japan's automakers in 2011. Toyota is the third largest in terms of U.S. sales.
Chrysler sales rose 20 percent to 144,811 vehicles, the company said on Tuesday, slightly topping analyst expectations.
It was the 27th consecutive month that Chrysler sales topped those from the previous year, and its best June sales since 2007.
GM, Ford, Chrysler, an affiliate of Italy's Fiat SpA <FIA.MI>, and Japan's Nissan <7201.T> were the first of the major automakers to report U.S. June sales.
GM is the No. 1 automaker in new-car sales, Ford is No. 2 and Chrysler is No. 4.
Nissan, which is No. 6, showed a 28-percent sales gain, to 92,237 new vehicles. The Nissan brand had record June sales of 81,801, up 25 percent, while the luxury Infiniti brand showed a 66-percent sales rise to 10,436.
J.D. Power and Associates and LMC Automotive expect a 20-percent gain in U.S. auto sales for June.
The Chrysler brand of vehicles showed a 63-percent gain in sales, followed by its Jeep brand at a 23-percent gain, Ram truck up 12 percent and the Dodge brand up only 2 percent, Chrysler said.