US, Korean Automakers See Higher Sales

Posted August 2nd, 2011 at 4:20 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. and South Korean automakers report higher U.S. vehicle sales in July, despite ongoing public concerns about the nation's fragile economy.

Sales at General Motors, the largest U.S. automaker, increased nearly 8 percent in July. GM said Tuesday it saw strong demand for its fuel efficient Chevrolet Cruze, as well as for its pickup trucks and crossover vehicles.

Number two U.S. automaker Ford said year-on-year sales for July gained 9 percent, with strong demand for its Ford Explorer sport utility vehicle. Chrysler, now controlled by Italian car maker Fiat, said sales jumped 20 percent, led by sales of its SUVs.

Despite the gains, the U.S. car companies cautioned that consumers remain nervous about the fragile U.S. economy, and that the debt crisis may have scared off some buyers.

Two of South Korea's leading automakers also reported sales gains Tuesday.

Hyundai said its U.S. sales rose 10 percent over July of last year. Kia Motors said its July sales jumped nearly 29 percent.

But two of Japan's top car companies continued to struggle.

Toyota, also the world's largest auto company, said sales dropped 23 percent. Honda said sales fell 28 percent. Both companies were hit hard by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated parts of Japan and disrupted vehicle production around the world.

Earlier Tuesday, Toyota said it earned about $14 million for the three-month period ending in June.

The car maker said it now expects to sell more vehicles this year than it originally predicted. It also forecast an annual profit of about $5 billion, higher than the company initially anticipated but still lower than the year before.

Some economists look at auto sales as an indicator of consumer sentiment and economic health.

Both GM and Ford Tuesday said they still expect the industry as a whole to sell between 13 and 14 million vehicles this year, although they said they expect the final total to be at the lower end of that range.