U.S. car and truck sales were expected to rise in June as lower gas prices and more incentives brought buyers back to the market.
Analysts expected automakers to sell around 1.1 million vehicles in June, up 13.5 percent from last June. The results indicated that the industry's recovery was back on track after floundering in May because of earthquake-related shortages and few deals.
Automakers will release June results starting around 11 a.m. EDT Friday.
Incentives lured some buyers. Automakers spent an average of $2,165 per vehicle on deals last month, according to Edmunds.com. That was slightly more than in May, when incentive spending fell to its lowest level in six years. Toyota Motor Corp., looking to stop a sales slide due to earthquake-related shortages, boosted incentives by 31 percent between May and June. Honda Motor Co. promised buyers that if they order a Honda now, they will get current lease deals, cash back and other incentives when the car is delivered. Honda is anticipating shortages of its new Civic small car for the next several months because of supply issues in Japan.
Falling gas prices also improved buyers' moods. Gas was $3.57 per gallon in the last week of June, down from a national average of $3.90 in May. Jesse Toprak, vice president of industry trends and insights for TrueCar.com, said buyers went for bigger vehicles, with sales of pickups and SUVs rising at a faster pace than sales as a whole.
That was partly because small, fuel-efficient cars remain in short supply. Automakers started June with around a month's worth of inventory of subcompact and compact cars because of the earthquake and manufacturing constraints, and the situation didn't improve as the month went on, according to George Pipas, Ford's chief U.S. sales analyst. Pipas said buyers who want those cars appear to be waiting to get them instead of settling for something bigger.