Sales of new cars and trucks surge in U.S., Wichita

U.S. buyers snapped up new cars and trucks in June at a pace not seen since before the recession, and Wichita dealers say the nationwide stats seem to ring true locally.

Continuing demand for big pickups helped boost sales for Detroit's automakers.

Ford said Tuesday that its overall U.S. sales rose 14 percent, while Chrysler's gained 8 percent and General Motors' rose 6.5 percent.

Analysts estimate that U.S. auto sales rose 6 percent to 8 percent in June compared with the same month last year.

Sales of pickups have been selling at a rate three times faster than the rest of the industry, and the pace continued strong in June.

Les Eck, owner of Rusty Eck Ford and Eck Automotive Group, said he thinks Texas is the largest truck market in the world and that a pickup in sales there is helping to fuel the national numbers.

Locally, he’s seen a steady increase in F-150 sales, he said, but he didn’t have any figures readily available.

Overall, Ford sold just over 68,000 F-Series trucks, up 24 percent from last June and its best June for trucks since 2005.

Eck said he has $32million in total inventory and $24million of that is in trucks. He said Ford’s lineup is the freshest of any currently on the market.

Sales of Ford's recently updated Fiesta subcompact more than doubled to 9,363, while Chrysler sold nearly 6,500 Dodge Dart small cars.

Analysts say they don't see much that would slow the sales momentum of the first six months. The factors that juiced sales — low interest rates, wider credit availability, rising home construction and hot new vehicles — are likely to remain in place.

So far, hiccups in the stock market, higher taxes and fluctuating gas prices haven't dampened demand.

Rams and Silverados

GM said sales of its Silverado pickups jumped 29 percent to 43,259, while Chrysler Group sold nearly 30,000 full-size Ram pickups, up 24 percent from last June.

Michael Offutt, general manager of Don Hattan Chevrolet in Park City, said the Chevy Silverados are the best selling in class and sales are up locally. Although he didn’t have solid numbers for June yet, Offutt said Silverados are consistently top sellers, and he wasn’t surprised that truck sales are doing well overall.

“Most people in this area prefer them, and it fits their lifestyles in this area of the country,” he said.

He expects the growth trend to continue, especially as Chevy rolls out new models.

Sean Tarbell, vice president of Davis Moore, said his dealership also is seeing an increase in Silverado sales, as well as about a 75 percent increase in Dodge Ram sales over last year.

“Sales are good,” Tarbell said. “New car sales are definitely up.”

He thinks improvements in gas mileage have also made an impact on truck sales.

However, sales of Chrysler models are relatively flat, he said.

Nationally, Chrysler gained 8 percent. The company, majority-owned by Fiat SpA of Italy, also had some weak spots. Jeep sales were flat as the company halted production of the Liberty to get ready for the launch of the new Jeep Cherokee in August.

Tarbell said that with new designs coming out from Jeep, he anticipates growth in the coming months.

Japanese automakers reported solid gains as well. Nissan's sales jumped 13 percent, while Toyota's were up 10 percent. But Volkswagen's sales dropped 3 percent, the third straight monthly decline for the German car company.

Young graduates may have contributed to a rise in sales of small cars, said Kelley Blue Book analyst Alec Gutierrez. Gas prices, which averaged $3.60 a gallon nationwide in June and were higher than a year ago, may have steered some buyers to more fuel-efficient models, he said.

Contributing: Associated Press