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June auto sales stay strong while SUVs, trucks grow in popularity

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Keith Srakocic/AP/File

(Read caption) A row of new 2013 Ford Fusions are on display at an automobile dealership in Zelienople, Pa. in May 2013. Although many major US automakers like Ford did not meet analysts’ expectations, several car companies reported robust year-to-year gains.

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Several US automakers reported robust year-to-year gains for June, thanks  to soaring truck and SUV sales. 

Japanese automaker Nissan reported a 13.3 percent surge in US auto sales compared with June of last year, selling more than 124,000 vehicles during the month and beating analysts’ expectations of 11.8 percent year-over-year growth. Nissan beat several records for the month of June: its crossovers, trucks and SUVs were up 30.3 percent year-over-year, while its best-selling vehicle, the Altima, recorded a 12.7 percent increase since June 2014.

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Toyota’s US sales went up 4.1 percent year-to-year to nearly 210,000 vehicles in June and also beat expectations. The uptick was thanks in large part to strong sales in the automaker's "light trucks" category, which includes SUVS and crossovers. Those sales jumped 16.5 percent, setting a June record for the automaker. However, Toyota did not see the same growth with its other vehicles. Camry sales went down about 8 percent from last year, while Corolla sales dipped down by 1 percent.

Other automakers had strong sales as well, even though they were not quite what analysts expected. Ford was forecasted to have June auto sales grow 3 to 4 percent, but the Michigan-based company reported a 2 percent uptick since May. Its SUV sales went up 10 percent to 64,885, making it Ford’s best month for SUV sales since 2002. Fiat Chrysler Automobile's US sales jumped 8 percent to 185,035 vehicles, slightly below expectations for a 10 percent gain but still the best June sales the automaker has had since 2006.

Despite a strong performance by the auto industry overall, some companies saw their numbers dip: General Motors's sales declined 3 percent, when analysts thought GM would have a 3 percent increase. Sales for Buick brand vehicles overall decreased 18.1 percent, while its Cruze sales dropped nearly 13 percent from last year. The car maker did see sales go up for some of its trucks and SUVs. For example, GM’s pickup truck Colorado had its best June sales since 2007, with 6,558 units bought by drivers.

Although analysts had predicted even bigger increases for individual automakers – especially considering there was an extra selling day this June compared with June 2014 – this month is still on track to be one of the best June for vehicle sales in nearly a decade. More automakers will release their numbers later this week. Prior to Wednesday's sales reports, Kelley Blue Book estimated new vehicle sales would increase 5.8 percent year-over-year to 1.5 million vehicles for the month. Edmunds.com analysts predicted similiar numbers projecting auto sales to increase 4.7 percent to 1.48 million cars, the best June since 2006.

“The auto industry has maintained most of the strength it flexed during its record-breaking May,” Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds.com’s director of industry analysis, said in the report. “In many parts of the country we saw May’s deal offers extend well into June, and Fourth of July promotions should start as early as next week. These sales messages are helping to sustain the industry’s momentum into the first few weeks of summer.”

Kelley Blue Book also reported that the prices of vehicles is continuing to tick up. The average new car price for light vehicles increased 2.5 percent from last year to $33,340 in June 2015. The average was also up 0.6 percent from May.