Sales of USA passenger cars decline in July

General Motors retail sales decreased 14.4

Carmakers have used lower-margin sales to rental fleets as a way to avoid shutdowns in plants.

Several major automakers, including GM, Ford, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Nissan Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor Co. said they sharply reduced rental auto sales in July, and they portrayed the decisions as putting profit ahead of sales volume.

Analysts have been predicting lower sales this year as demand levels out after an unprecedented seven straight years of growth. Ford said total vehicle sales for last month tumbled 7.5% from a year, as a 19.4% plunge in auto sales and a 7.1% slide in truck sales offset a 2.2% rise in SUV sales. Fiat Chrysler said sales dropped 10 percent. Chevrolet was down 15.3 percent, Cadillac fell 21 percent, Buick fell 30.5 percent and GMC, which concentrates on trucks, fell 7.3 percent.

GM did not gain much ground trying to reduce the inventories of its unsold vehicles. The projected rate, which is adjusted for seasonal trends, would be down from 17.9 million a year earlier, though it alsowould be the fastest rate since February.

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Compared to this time last year, "we're starting off at higher incentive levels; we've got even more elevated inventory levels and even worse inventory-quality problems" heading into the end of the model year, he said.

Deliveries for Ford's F-Series rose 5.8 percent, while Fiat Chrysler's Ram brand sales were little changed from a year earlier. The Explorer accounts for most of the production volume at the plant at Torrence Avenue and 126th Street, and sales have risen 6.4 percent to 137,224 through the first six months of the year. Car-shopping site Edmunds.com said the average price paid for a new vehicle in July was $34,558, 2% higher than the same month a year ago.

But vehicle sales are plummeting, hurt by low gas prices and changing tastes.

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