Sport utility vehicles are back, and last month, they helped bolster nationwide sales across the auto industry. On Friday, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler all reported hefty sales gains, helped by SUVs as well as a rise in discounts that automakers offered.
GM, despite a long string of recalls, sold more than 250,000 vehicles last month, up 9 percent from a year ago. Roughly half that growth came from commercial buyers, but even retail sales were up 4 percent over July 2013.
Once again, SUVs and trucks ruled the day. Sales of GM’s large SUVs — its most profitable vehicles — have been robust, and that trend continued last month, with sales up 32 percent compared with the same month last year.
Sales of the Chevy Tahoe rose 52 percent, the GMC Yukon was up 48 percent, and the even larger Yukon XL jumped 27 percent. While Cadillac was the only GM brand to post a sales loss, down 3 percent from last year, its large Escalade SUV was the exception: Its sales nearly doubled last month to about 3,900.
The crossover SUV market is also strong, and has become one of the most competitive segments in the market, as automakers fight over consumers who are increasingly returning to SUVs from cars.
Ford, whose sales lagged in June, rebounded last month thanks to a wave of growth in its SUVs, including double-digit gains for the Explorer, Escape, and Expedition offerings. Ford sales were up 10 percent overall compared with July 2013.
GM’s crossover sales were up 26 percent. Vehicles like Buick’s compact SUV, the Encore, led the way, with a 28 percent jump last month. The Encore is up nearly 80 percent for the year, helped by GM’s recent boost in rebates aimed at bringing in new buyers.
Eustace Phillip, a professor from Canton, Mass., is one of them. He and his wife purchased an Encore on June 15, even though they had not even heard of it before that day.
Phillip said they planned to look at Toyota’s Avalon sedan, but his wife did not like the feel of it. A dealer suggested an Encore, and while they had never owned an SUV, they were drawn to the extra space and higher seating position.
“She opened the door, sat inside, and was hooked,” he said. “We went from zero interest in buying it to test-driving it to signing on the dotted line.”
Chrysler also reported a banner month, with sales 20 percent higher overall than a year ago, almost exclusively on SUVs and trucks. Jeep sales were up 41 percent, the best sales month ever for the brand.
July marked the 11th straight month that SUVs and trucks have outsold cars, according to Edmunds.com, the longest streak since 2005.