DETROIT -- U.S. auto sales grew at a slower pace in June, but a quirk of the calendar -- not a lack of demand -- was likely to blame.
GM, Toyota, Hyundai and Nissan all saw increases over last June. Sales at Honda were flat, while sales at Ford and Volkswagen were down.
Car-buying site TrueCar.com expected U.S. sales to rise 1 percent over last June to 1.4 million cars and trucks. That was lower than May, when exuberant buyers flush with tax returns boosted sales 11 percent to 1.6 million.
May sales were helped by five sunny weekends and the Memorial Day holiday, which got June off to a slow start. But Ford’s U.S. sales chief John Felice said sales picked up at the end of last month as automakers started promoting Independence Day sales.
Analysts saw plenty to like in June. Forecasting firm LMC Automotive said automakers are carefully balancing production with demand, which has helped them maintain profits and cut back on big incentives that can eventually hurt resale values.
TrueCar estimated incentive spending rose 1.6 percent in June to an average of $2,735 per vehicle. Both GM and Nissan lowered incentives by 12 percent from last June.
While incentives may be lower, buyers are taking advantage of good lease offers and low interest rates. The average interest rate for a 60-month new car loan is 3.18 percent. Three years ago, that was closer to 5.5 percent, according to Bankrate.com.
LMC Automotive raised its full-year U.
"The U.S. auto market is arguably in the best position and health it has been in since well before the great recession," said Jeff Schuster, LMC’s senior vice president of forecasting
GM’s sales were up 1 percent over last June despite a continuing parade of recalls. GM’s total safety recalls for the year reached 29 million vehicles on Monday, when the automaker announced six new recalls of 8.4 million cars. Two of those recalls were for ignition switch problems, the same issue that began the company’s recall crisis in February.