Despite more aggressive discounts, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group on Tuesday reported lower U.S. sales for June, underscoring the drag on the U.S. auto industry from high gas prices, fierce competition and a weak housing market.
Ford's overall monthly sales, including sales into commercial fleets, were down 8 percent, although the No. 2 U.S. automaker eked out its first monthly gain in showroom sales since October.
Sales for Chrysler Group were down 1 percent in one of its last months in operation as a unit of DaimlerChrysler AG. Chrysler is being taken private by Cerberus Capital Management in a $7.4 billion deal expected to close as early as this month.
Sales for Nissan Motor Co. jumped 24 percent in June on gains for its passenger car line-up, led by the subcompact Versa and the Altima sedan.
The weaker results for Ford and Chrysler came despite more aggressive marketing and stepped-up incentive spending by the money-losing automakers and were broadly in line with cautious Wall Street expectations.
Other automakers, including global market leader Toyota Motor Corp., were scheduled to report June U.S. sales later on Tuesday.
For its part, Chrysler ran an ad campaign through June spotlighting the fuel efficiency of its passenger cars and small sport-utility vehicles and offered an industry-leading package of sales incentives.
Chrysler said its car sales were up 55 percent in June, while sales of the new Jeep Wrangler helped lead results higher for that brand by 19 percent.
Ford, which offered a package of interest-free loans and rebates in June, managed to hold sales of its best-selling vehicle -- the F-Series pickup truck -- almost flat in June.
Ford, which has staked its turnaround effort on a new line-up of more fuel-efficient, car-based crossovers like the Ford Edge, said sales in that category jumped 83 percent.
NISSAN OFFERS DISCOUNTS, SALES RISE
Nissan's gains came after it stepped up its incentive spending in June, offering an average discount of $2,218, compared with $1,943 in May, according to industry tracking service Edmunds.com.
Nissan did not break down how many of its vehicles had been sold into fleets, including low-margin sales to car rental agencies that automakers prefer to shun because of their low return and potential for eroding resale values.
For its part, Ford said essentially all of the decline in its sales reflected its strategy of throttling back on such sales and emerging as a smaller automaker focused on higher-margin showroom transactions.
Ford said it sold 22,000 fewer vehicles into commercial fleets in June compared with a year earlier.
Sales results for the automakers were not adjusted for an additional selling day in June compared with the same month a year earlier.
Ford and Chrysler both report monthly sales results on that unadjusted basis.
General Motors Corp., the leading Japanese automakers and Wall Street analysts track adjusted monthly sales, which were 3 to 4 percentage points lower than the unadjusted tallies for June.
Five of the six leading automakers offered bigger discounts in June than they did in May, according to Edmunds. GM was the exception.
In a significant departure from usual practice, the three leading Japanese automakers increased their discounting in the face of slack demand, Edmunds said.
Auto sales incentives are widely tracked by analysts as an indication of relative profitability and the pressure that automakers face to move inventory.
Automakers do not typically disclose how much they spend on incentives, which can include concessional financing, cash rebates or additional payments to dealers.