Auto-industry analysts predict a slowdown in vehicle sales in August, a trend due less to high gas prices than to a summer of heavily publicized...
DETROIT — Auto-industry analysts predict a slowdown in vehicle sales in August, a trend due less to high gas prices than to a summer of heavily publicized discounts that thinned dealer lots and satiated consumers.
Analysts are predicting a seasonally adjusted sales rate of around 16.9 million vehicles in August, down from a near-record 20.8 million vehicles in July. The rate indicates what sales would be for the full year if they remained at the same pace for all 12 months. Full-year sales for 2004 were about 17 million.
General Motors is likely to report the sharpest decline when automakers release sales figures Thursday. GM was the first to let all customers pay employee prices in June and recently extended the deal through Sept. 30.
Other automakers will fare better. Merrill Lynch analyst John Casesa said Ford continues to draw customers with its employee-discount program, which began in July. In a note to investors, Casesa predicted Ford’s sales will be up 5 percent in August, thanks to a fatter inventory than GM’s.
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Analysts predicted DaimlerChrysler’s Chrysler Group will see a small increase in August after matching GM’s discount in July. Chrysler has said it will continue to offer employee pricing on some 2005 vehicles indefinitely.
After losing market share to the Big Three throughout the summer, several foreign automakers that didn’t offer employee discounts — including Nissan, Toyota and Honda. — should regain some share in August.
Toyota is seeing especially strong demand for its Avalon sedan, Scion brand and hybrid Prius, Casesa said. Prius sales were up 92 percent in July.