JD Power sees June auto sales up 2.6 percent from May

DETROIT (Reuters) - J.D. Power and Associates forecast that June U.S. auto sales will rise 8 percent from a year ago and 2.6 percent from last month, in line with statements earlier this week from General Motors Co <GM.N> and Ford Motor Co <F.N> executives.

The industry consultant and analyst dropped its forecast for full-year 2011 sales to 12.9 million vehicles from 13 million vehicles, as J.D. Power said there was greater uncertainty about the overall U.S. economy for the rest of the year.

Pickup trucks and compact cars each will show a larger portion of overall sales in June from May, it said.

"There has been some easing of negative variables in June, as the inventory shortage has not been as severe as expected, and gas (gasoline) prices have dropped noticeably from higher levels in April and May," said Jeff Schuster, executive director of global forecasting for J.D. Power and Associates.

"Provided that the economy decides to cooperate, the automotive summer slowdown will only be a speed bump, and a return of a measurable recovery pace is still expected in the second half of 2011," Schuster said.

An inventory shortage caused by Japanese automaker and supplier production issues due to the March 11 earthquake in Japan was not as acute as was thought weeks ago, J.D. Power said.

The 8 percent rise from June 2010 forecast by J.D. Power would mean a seasonally adjusted annualized rate, a figure that the auto industry follows, for total light vehicles of 12 million, up from 11.7 million in May and 11.1 million last June.

June retail sales -- which do not include bulk fleet sales to rental agencies, government and business -- are forecast to show 9.9 million in auto sales on the annualized basis. That would be a 6.5 percent rise from May.

Retail sales are a better indication of consumer demand than the total light vehicle figure, and are generally more profitable for dealers and automakers.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)