DETROIT — Car shoppers continued their love affair with trucks and SUVs in July, according to the industry's monthly sales report.
"Light trucks remained the hottest segment for the industry in July," said Bill Fay, Toyota Division group vice president and general manager, in a statement. "Toyota Division reported its best-ever light truck sales for the month, supported by record July results for both RAV4 and Highlander."
The July sales report is closely watched because it sets the tone for the last half of the year.
"If automakers expect to outperform last year's record-breaking sales, they're going to have to lean more heavily on creating and promoting attractive financing offers to lure new buyers into showrooms," said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds.com executive director of industry analysis. "Zero-percent financing deals were much more common last year summer than they are now: 12.9 percent of new car loans in July of 2015 were zero percent, while only 10.2 percent of loans were zero percent this July."
She added: "We're also seeing indicators that lease deals were much harder for car shoppers to come by in July, as lease penetration dropped to 27.8 percent, the lowest level since May of 2015.
"While some of the softness in leasing can be attributed to seasonal fluctuations and the fact that GM's lease penetration dropped below 20 percent, lease customers are very price-sensitive and may need a bit more of a nudge than they're currently getting to convince them to close the deal."
There were several bright spots in a somewhat lackluster July sales report.
American Honda Motor Co. turned in July sales of 152,799 Honda and Acura vehicles, a 4.4 percent gain over July 2015 and a new July record.
"The CR-V shattered its all-time sales record while the new Ridgeline pickup had a strong first full month of sales even as production continues to ramp up," Honda said in a statement.
Audi, Mazda, Nissan and Volkswagen reported strong consumer demand for crossovers.
Audi reported its "best July in the brand's U.S. history" on the strength of strong SUV sales. The Audi Q3 crossover posted a sales record of 1,819 vehicles for the month.
Mazda tallied July U.S. sales of 27,915 vehicles, for an increase of 2.8 percent compared to last year. The Mazda CX-5 had its best-ever July with 10,831 vehicles sold.
Nissan report a sales increase of 1.2 percent in July, fueled by record crossover demand.
"Overall sales of Nissan crossovers, trucks and SUVs set a July record, up 16 percent," the company said in a statement.
The Volkswagen Tiguan turned in its best-ever July with 3,379 units sold, a 48.8 percent increase. But overall VW sales were down 8 percent in July, as the automaker continues to grapple with the diesel-emissions crisis.
Hyundai tweeted that "last month was hot with an all-time best July sales month of 75,003."
But domestic automakers experienced a cooling in customer demand.
Ford sales dropped 2.8 percent in July with 216,479 total vehicles sold. But sales of Ford vans were up 26 percent, led by Transit.
"Trucks and vans continue to be market strengths for Ford," said Mark LaNeve, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, in a statement. "Van customers rewarded us with another strong year-over-year gain and F-Series had its best retail sales this year."
At General Motors, total sales in July were down 1.9 percent to 267,258 vehicles. But sales of light-duty crew-cab Silverado trucks notched their best-ever for a July, the automaker said.
"Our retail-focused plan is working and as availability of our new cars, trucks and crossovers continues to grow, we expect to keep our retail sales momentum going and our strong margins intact," said Kurt McNeil, GM's U.S. vice president of sales operations, in a statement.
Fiat Chrysler reported U.S. sales of 180,727 units, up 0.3 percent compared with July 2015 sales of 180,124 units.
"Sales of the all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica [are] up month-over-month as launch momentum continues to build," Fiat Chrysler said in a statement about the minivan.
Edmunds says: There seems to be no end to the insatiable demand for trucks and SUVs as car shoppers head into the last half of 2016.