American new car and truck sales remained strong last month, according to figures released yesterday by auto makers – a sign of robust consumer spending in the face of the US economic downturn.

Spurred by promotions and competition between foreign and domestic car firms, sales of light vehicles hit seventeen million units last month, ahead of the most optimistic expectations. This rose to 17.4m–17.5m including medium and heavy-duty trucks.

June’s figures mean that total new vehicle sales in the first six months of this year are only 5% lower than the record results seen in the first half of 2000. In response, Ford Motor yesterday increased its total 2001 sales forecasts from 16.5m to 17m, while General Motors announced it would update its second-half predictions later this month.

GM sold 456,855 new cars and trucks in June, a 3% fall on last year, with Ford’s 392,412 marking a 6.6% year-on-year decline. Chrysler Group – the third of America’s ‘big-three’ auto makers – managed a 1% gain on June last year with 218,633 unit sales.

However, the domestic giants were outstripped for growth by foreign rivals. Toyota’s June unit sales jumped 19.8% year-on-year to 153,633, while BMW sales accelerated 32% to 20,250.

News source: Financial Times