Chrysler's U.S. sales in June rise 8 percent


Chrysler's U.S. sales in June rose 8 percent on strong demand for its two best-selling vehicles, the Ram full-size pickup truck and Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV, the company said on Tuesday.

Chrysler Group LLC, majority-owned by Italy's Fiat, reported U.S. sales last month of 156,686 vehicles, in line with analysts' expectations and the company's best June results since 2007.

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Overall U.S. auto industry sales in June are expected to show a rise of up to 8 percent and could reach their strongest monthly pace since before a recession pushed Chrysler and General Motors into bankruptcy in 2009.

Economists polled by Thomson Reuters expect an annual sales rate in June of 15.4 million vehicles. Several analysts and research firms who follow the auto industry closely anticipate a rate of 15.5 million to 15.7 million.

Chrysler falls in the optimists' camp as it expects a sales pace in the month of about 16 million vehicles, including medium and heavy trucks. Those vehicles typically account for about 300,000 sales annually.

"The fundamentals for continued industry gains in new-vehicle sales remain intact," Chrysler U.S. sales chief Reid Bigland said in a statement.

Monthly sales are seen as an early indicator of the U.S. economy's health. The auto industry has held up better than the broader economy as easier credit availability and pent-up demand for vehicles have driven demand.

In May, U.S. auto sales rose more than expected as construction workers and oil drillers bought more pickups to meet growing demand for their services, a trend major automakers expect to continue through the rest of the year.

(This version of the story corrects the name of Chrysler vehicle to Grand Cherokee instead of Cherokee in first sentence.)

(Reporting by Ben Klayman and Bernie Woodall in Detroit; editing by John Wallace)