(Corrects headline, first paragraph to show sales were mixed. Removes references to better-than-expected vehicle sales based on Ford figures that included categories not calculated in industry totals; corrects second paragraph to show that automakers’ shares were lifted by retail sales and GM commentary rather than better-than-expected sales; deletes reference in paragraph 9 and 10 to sales figures on Ford media call.)
By Nick Carey
DETROIT, July 3 (Reuters) - Major automakers on Monday posted mixed U.S. new vehicle sales figures for June, with the U.S. automakers reporting lower numbers while the major Japanese automakers said their sales were up versus the same month in 2016.
Automakers’ shares rose as retail sales to consumers were relatively stable at the U.S. automakers, with General Motors Co asserting that the industry was set for a stronger finish to the year. Wall Street expectations were for a fourth straight month of declining sales in June.
The U.S. auto industry has been bracing for a downturn after hitting a record 17.55 million new vehicles sold in 2016. A glut of nearly new used vehicles poses competition for new vehicle sales and automakers have relied increasingly on high consumer discounts and loosened lending terms.
Car shopping website Edmunds said on Monday the average length of a car loan reached an all-time high of 69.3 months in June.
“It’s financially risky, leaving borrowers exposed to being upside down on their vehicles for a large chunk of their loans,” said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds’ executive director of industry analysis.
General Motors Co said its sales fell about 5 percent versus June 2016, but that the industry would see stronger sales in the second half of 2017 versus the first half.
“U.S. total sales are moderating due to an industry-wide pullback in daily rental sales, but key U.S. economic fundamentals clearly remain positive,” said GM chief economist Mustafa Mohatarem. “Under the current economic conditions, we anticipate U.S. retail vehicle sales will remain strong for the foreseeable future.”
Ford Motor Co said its sales for June were hit by lower fleet sales to rental agencies, businesses and government entities, which fell 13.9 percent, while sales to consumers were flat.
GM shares were up 2.8 percent in late morning trading on Monday, while Ford shares rose 3.9 percent.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (FCA) said June sales decreased 7 percent versus the same month a year earlier.
Toyota Motor Corp said sales rose 2.1 percent versus June 2016 and said it saw strong gains in the RAV4, a light SUV, sales of which increased 24.7 percent. Sales of another SUV, the 4Runner, rose 16.6 percent.
But sales at Toyota’s Lexus luxury car brand fell 5.4 percent on the year.
Nissan Motor Co Ltd said its U.S. sales increased 2 percent. But while truck, SUV and crossover sales jumped 19.5 percent, sedan sales dropped 12.1 percent.
In the past few years, Americans have increasingly shunned smaller passenger cars in favor of larger vehicles.
Honda Motor Co Ltd said sales for June were up 0.8 percent. (Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)