Last month's sales were a mixed bag for the auto industry, as two of Detroit's biggest automakers slipped, while Japan's Honda, Toyota and Nissan gained big.
But not all was quite as it seemed. The Japanese rebound comes in the wake of last year's nearly depleted new vehicle supply caused by the earthquake and tsunami that crippled vehicle production on the island nation. Not only did Honda and Toyota, in particular, essentially stop building cars at home, they lost key parts suppliers that delivered components to their plants across the globe.
Meanwhile, Ford and GM said that their fleet sales to rental firms were way down last month. Ford has come under particularly heavy criticism from industry analysts for its high dependence of government and daily rental fleet sales.
Without further ado, here's a look at this month's numbers:
Acura - Up 36 percent to 12,825
Audi - Up 28 percent to 11,707
BMW - Down 1 percent to 21,297
Buick - Down 15 percent to 14,391
Cadillac - Up 21 percent to 13,417
Chevrolet - Down 7 percent to 138,942
Chrysler - Up 35 percent to 20,792
Dodge - Up 6 percent to 35,630
Fiat - Up 22 percent to 3,710
Ford - Down 4 percent to 166,507
GMC - Down 9 percent to 34,487
Honda - Up 46 percent to 104,119
Hyundai - Up 4 percent to 62,021
Infiniti - Up 57 percent to 11,619
Jaguar - Up 3 percent to 1,011
Jeep - Up 7 percent to 41,559
Kia - Up 6 percent to 48,074
Land Rover - Up 18 percent to 3,320
Lexus - Up 25 percent to 18,235
Lincoln - Down 11 percent to 6,975
Maserati - Up 5 percent to 208
Mazda - Down 7 percent to 19,318
Mercedes-Benz - Up 4 percent to 21,514
Mitsubishi - Down 47 percent to 4,194
MINI - Up 24 percent to 5,855
Nissan - Up 12 percent to 86,722
Porsche - Up 1 percent to 2,803
Ram - Up 15 percent to 24,398
Smart - Up 139 percent to 780
Subaru - Up 16 percent to 25,183
Suzuki - Down 7 percent to 2,266
Toyota (Includes Scion) - Up 24 percent to 139,759
Volkswagen - Up 28 percent to 48,893
Volvo - Up 2 percent to 5,717
BMW Group - Up 4 percent to 27,184
Chrysler - Up 13 percent to 126,089
Daimler - Up 6 percent to 22,298
Ford Motor Company - Down 4 percent to 173,482
General Motors - Down 6 percent to 201,237
American Honda - Up 45 percent to 116,944
Hyundai Group - Up 5 percent to 110,095
Jaguar Land Rover - Up 14 percent to 4,331
Nissan North America - Up 16 percent to 98,341
Toyota USA - Up 26 percent to 164,898
2012 YTD Numbers
Acura - Up 22 percent to 85,761
Audi - Up 18 percent to 76,865
BMW - Up 9 percent to 147,801
Buick - Down 5 percent to 104,589
Cadillac - own 13 percent to 76,229
Chevrolet - Up 5 percent to 1,100,604
Chrysler - Up 69 percent to 188,546
Dodge - Up 13 percent to 297,208
Fiat - Up 206 percent to 24,416
Ford - Up 5 percent to 1,264,928
GMC - Up 5 percent to 235,528
Honda - Up 19 percent to 732,165
Hyundai - Up 10 percent to 418,690
Infiniti - Up 21 percent to 65,966
Jaguar - Up 2 percent to 7,517
Jeep - Up 24 percent to 283,106
Kia - Up 16 percent to 336,781
Land Rover - Up 21 percent to 24,311
Lexus - Up 23 percent to 126,367
Lincoln - Down 2 percent to 48,937
Maserati - Up 15 percent to 1,496
Mazda - Up 14 percent to 163,115
Mercedes-Benz - Up 15 percent to 159,391
Mitsubishi - Down 29 percent to 37,067
MINI - Up 10 percent to 37,914
Nissan - Up 14 percent to 610,066
Porsche - Up 5 percent to 19,253
Ram - Up 15 percent to 464,089
Smart - Up 92 percent to 5,528
Subaru - Up 23 percent to 189,487
Suzuki - Down 4 percent to 15,260
Toyota (Includes Scion) - Up 29 percent to 1,084,627
Volkswagen - Up 30 percent to 323,853
Volvo - Down 4 percent to 40,333
BMW Group - Up 10 percent to 185,939
Chrysler - Up 28 percent to 960,157
Daimler - Up 16 percent to 164,947
Ford Motor Company - Up 5 percent to 1,313,865
General Motors - Up3 percent to 1,516,950
American Honda - Up 19 percent to 817,926
Hyundai Group - Up 12 percent to 755,471
Jaguar Land Rover - Up 16 percent to 31,828
Nissan North America - Up 15 percent to 676,062
Toyota USA - Up 28 percent to 1,210,994
Chrysler's sales were up pretty much all around, with its biggest individual gainers the Dodge Journey (69 percent), Chrysler 200 (43 percent) and Dodge Avenger (43 percent). Some of its traditional stalwarts, like the Jeep Wrangler (down 15 percent) and Compass (down 7 percent) were off a bit.
Ford says that its retail sales were actually up 2 percent, but especially slow fleet sales dragged it down just short of 4 percent overall. In addition, Ford had high hopes for its new Escape crossover, but sales toppled 12 percent due in part to two recalls, one of which had dealers immediately fetching customer cars to repair them. There was some good news, however: The lame-duck Fusion had its best July ever, while the Explorer continues to perform strongly (up 14 percent).
Lincoln's picture was hardly bright, either, although MKT sales were up 57 percent (to a still small 738 units) and the MKZ saw a 6 percent bump.
GM, meanwhile, readily acknowledged that both fleet and retail sales were down - 6 and 3 percent, respectively. Sales were a mixed bag; Chevrolet's Cruze and Malibu tumbled more than 35 percent each, but the Equniox was up 17 eprcent to become the automaker's best-selling non-pickup.
Cadillac, on the other hand, had an especially bright month, with its 13,417 units nearly toppling Buick's 14,391. Of those Caddys, 1,739 were XTSs.
Honda saw double digit growth for nearly all of its models, but nothing in its portfolio could top the 162 percent boost the redesigned Acura RDX saw over its predecessor (to 2,664 units). Especially strong performers included the Odyssey (up 104 percent) and the Civic (up 93 percent).
Hyundai broke a July record thanks in part to the introduction of its Elantra Coupe and GT models. Less profitable fleet sales were up a little - to 12 percent - but remain among the industry's lower at 9.7 percent year-to-date.
Mazda was off a little last month, but the automaker did point out that 60 percent of the cars it sold were equipped with its eco-friendly Skyactiv 2.0-liter four-cylinder gas engine (which is used in the CX-5 and certain Mazda3s).
At Nissan, the brand's best performer was once again its Altima. With the new 2013 model officially in full supply, the brand saw sales up 25 percent to 26,602 units. Its second-best performer was the Rogue, which sold about half as many units - 13,193 (up 17 percent). Infiniti had a good month led by a huge 89 percent jump in sales for the G sedan, but the brand should also be pretty happy with the 1,999 JX crossovers it sold.
July was Subaru's eighth consecutive month of increased sales and its biggest gainer was, once again, the Impreza (up 110 percent).
Toyota's Camry was America's most-popular sedan last month with just short of 30,000 deliveries. The automaker's expanded Prius line also combined for a solid 16,643 units. Lexus had similarly strong numbers nearly across the board, including more than 7,300 RX crossovers.
BMW's new 3-Series is proving to be a tough sell; sales were down 11 percent, but that wasn't enough to offset gains in the X3, 7-Series, 5-Series and 6-Series models. The brand's MINI line was all over the place: The Cooper and Countryman gained, while Convertibles and Clubmans slipped.
Mercedes-Benz is pretty happy with diesel sales; its BlueTEC models are up 45 percent this year thanks in part to the new M-Class crossover. At the opposite end of the automaker's spectrum, the high performance AMG line was up 12 percent last month.
Volkswagen continues to gain market share; the automaker had its best July in nearly 40 years, even though Jetta sales tumbled 13 percent. More than 9,000 Passats found new owners last month, marking the model's best ever July.
Volvo saw S60 sales up 22 percent, while its XC60 crossover was especially strong at 73 percent over last July.
Leftlane's bottom line
July, never one of the stronger selling months of the year, delivered about what we expected for Japan's biggest automakers: Dramatically increased sales. Hiding behind those big gains is the reality that last July was as weak a month as Honda and Toyota, in particular, have seen in decades.
But the month was more of a conundrum for Detroit's Big Three. Chrysler continues to ride a strong wave, but we're concerned that a large number of its midsize and fullsize sedan sales are to far less profitable fleets. That's a problem that Ford and GM have acknowledged hurt them in July. Fleet sales are an easy way to build volume, but they come at a serious cost to resale. Just how (or even if) they'll hurt Chrysler remains to be seen.
For now, there's plenty of reason for cautious optimism.