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GM Sales Declined Slightly in June, Honda Reports Gain

July 2, 1996

DETROIT (AP) _ General Motors Corp. reported Tuesday that its U.S. car and truck sales declined slightly last month, in what analysts said was an expected leveling off at the end of the industry’s strong first half.

``The market’s been having a pretty good run-up,″ said analyst James Hall of AutoPacific Inc. ``It’s difficult to imagine the pace would continue as it had through May. We need a break.″

GM’s 1 percent decline, from the level reported in June 1995, came a day after Chrysler Corp. reported its overall sales were up just under 1 percent, based on the daily sales rate. Ford Motor Co. planned to release its figures Wednesday.

Some Japanese automakers showed significant gains. Honda’s June sales were up 7 percent overall, led by strong demand for its Passport sport utility vehicle and Odyssey minivan. Robust SUV sales also contributed to Japanese automaker Isuzu’s 19 percent increase.

Car sales at GM were flat, while sales of pickups, minivans and SUVs were down nearly 3 percent in June. In the first six months of the year, GM’s overall sales were up 2 percent.

Chevrolet was the only division to show a gain in car sales last month, up 12 percent. Oldsmobile was down nearly 14 percent. Buick dropped 11 percent, Cadillac 6 percent and Pontiac 3 percent.

GM is on its annual two-week companywide vacation and executives were unavailable to comment, spokesman Dean Rotondo said.

Hall said the modest rise in gasoline prices, which received the most attention in early June, may have depressed sales of gas-guzzlers such as large sport utilities.

``It really wasn’t that big a deal, but there’s a psychological effect,″ he said. ``People in California were filing up their Chevy Tahoes and paying $50 a tank for the first time.″

Shortages of some popular models have led dealers to mark up prices, which also may be scaring off some customers, Hall said.

Hall said he expects domestic sales to remain relatively level in July and August, then drop off slightly as higher-priced 1997 models begin to appear in showrooms in the fall.

Billy Aston, new car sales manager at John Chezik Honda in Kansas City, Mo., said he could sell more Hondas if he could get more. He said his dealership sells about 90 new cars a month, but has only a five-day supply.

``Things are going good, and that’s bad, because production’s staying the same,″ Aston said.

Honda’s shift to U.S. production for the North American market is reflected in its June figures. Sales of imported Hondas and Acuras plummeted 51 percent in June over a year ago, while sales of U.S.-built vehicles went up 38 percent.

Two German automakers also reported strong U.S. sales results for June. Audi said its sales rose 49 percent over a year ago, while Volkswagen reported its sales were up 7 percent.

Japan’s Mazda and Mitsubishi said their U.S. sales declined sharply last month. Mazda reported June sales down 27 percent. Mitsubishi’s fell 13 percent.

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