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Ford July Sales Up 2.3%, Juiced by 'Cash For Clunkers;' GM Plunges 19.4%, Chrysler Down 9.4%

UPDATED at 3:10 p.m. with all the majors reporting:

Ford reported that July auto sales were up 2.3 percent compared to July 2008, the automaker's first monthly increase since November 2007.

And it's clear that Ford is the runaway winner so far in the government's "cash-for-clunkers" program: Even with a $4,500 government voucher, July sales of General Motors vehicles plunged 19.4 percent.

This is despite GM's lightning-fast bankruptcy reorganization, despite the White House's firing of former chief executive Rick Wagoner, despite paring its many brands down to four, despite continued good critical marks for the Chevy Malibu and GM's Cadillac products.

Chrysler reported what can only be counted as a stupendously winning month: July sales were down only 9 percent compared to July 2008 and were up 30 percent compared to June 2009.

Chrysler was by far the weakest of the Big Three; last year and early this, Chrysler sales were plunging 40 percent, 50 percent compared to 2008. To drop only 9 percent is a clear win.

Still, the GM drop was not quite as much as Wall Street expected.

George Pipas, sales analyst for Ford, said on CNBC a few moments ago that the automaker felt like it was going to "fall short" of last year's July sales levels until the government's stimulus kicked in.

"Cash for clunkers put us over the top," Pipas said.

Sales of Ford, General Motors and Chrysler vehicles accounted for 47 percent of all "cash-for-clunkers" sales through August 1, the Transportation Department said.

Ford said sales of its core brands -- Ford, Lincoln and Mercury -- rose by 9 percent. Dragging down the overall number to 2.3 percent was diminished fleet sales and other poor performing brands.

Other July automakers's reports:

-- Toyota, the world's largest automaker, reported a 10.8 percent drop in July compared to July 2008. However, July 2009 sales jumped 27.7 percent compared to June of this year.

-- Honda U.S. sales were down 17.3 percent. So far this year, Honda sales are down 30.7 percent.

-- Volkswagen said U.S. sales were up .7 percent. "It was not by accident that Volkswagen was able to perform so well in the government 'Cash-for-Clunkers' Program," Mark Barnes, VW's U.S. chief operating officer said in a statement.

-- Germany's Daimler AG said U.S. sales fell by 24 percent in July, as evidently not a lot of clunkers are being traded in for a new Mercedes Benz. Interestingly, sales of Daimler's little Smart car plunged 45 percent.

-- Subaru reported that its July sales jumped by 34 percent, as the Japanese maker fuel-sipping imports benefited from cash-for-clunkers. Subaru sells very few vehicles in the U.S.; July sales totaled only 21,839.

July Auto Sales Numbers Juiced by 'Cash For Clunkers'

10:45 a.m.: July auto sales numbers will come out from manufacturers one by one today, and Ford -- amazingly -- is saying that it will report its first monthly sales increase in two years.

Chrysler, too -- the weakest of the Big Three -- says it is poised to report positive news.

But don't get too excited: This is just another incidence of fake money offering a Red Bull jolt to an ailing economy.

July auto sales have been juiced by the government's "cash for clunkers" $4,500 credit toward buying a new car by trading in your (qualifying) jalopy. Yes, these are real sales for the automakers and yes, there are real upstream benefits (parts makers and so on) but this does not represent the organic sales that come in a healthy economy.

This program has been so successful it burned through its initial amount of money and the Senate is poised to vote today to announce an additional $2 billion to the program.

The question is: What happens when "cash for clunkers" finally ends?

-- Frank Ahrens
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By Frank Ahrens  |  August 3, 2009; 3:10 PM ET
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Chrysler, Ford, auto sales  
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WPO @ 473.50 +22.00‎. Looks like a Catch 22 for clunkerland though. A guys mother-in-law dies in California. He wires the undertaker. Embalm, cremate, bury. Take no chances. I just did that with the bank. Use your imagination about what is next. For some it's the good life and for others it doesn't look so good. Maybe it's better that way. My clunker is running and my ticker is still going, so I can't complain. Did they fix the water pressure in Washington yet? Dollars for Drano drinkers is up next.

Posted by: Dermitt | August 3, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

And what happens when the 70,000 RETIREES that are represented by IUE-CWA and other unions have their health care taken away, and pensions dumped on the PBGC. My Pension will go from $2300 to $365.80 A MONTH. Do you think we will still be loyal GM buyers???

Posted by: MarylouD | August 3, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

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