UPDATE 2-JD Power sees July US auto sales on par with June's
* North American 2012 production forecast unchanged * U.S. 2012 auto sales forecast at 14.5 million * 30 pct of auto loans are for 6 years or longer * Honda, Toyota to see big July gains -TrueCar.com By Bernie Woodall July 26 (Reuters) - July U.S. auto sales will rise about 20 percent from last year but be roughly the same as last month, at 14.1 million vehicles on a seasonally adjusted annualized basis, J.D. Power and Associates and LMC Automotive said on Thursday. Sales in July have been strong for small and midsize sedans, which are expected to rise 28 percent, the consultants said. All major model groups except mid-sized crossover SUVs have shown year-over-year sales gains. If the forecast is realized when auto sales are released by major automakers on Aug. 1, it would be the sixth time in the last seven months that monthly sales topped 14 million vehicles on the seasonally adjusted annualized basis used as a key barometer of industry health. In 2011, U.S. auto sales were 12.8 million. TrueCar.com also called July's light vehicle sales at 14.1 million on the seasonally adjusted annualized basis. While the June and July annualized sales rates are both 14.1 million, July's new-vehicle sales will likely be about 115,000, or about 9 percent, lower than June's sales. Long-term and more available financing is helping new-vehicle sales. J.D. Power-LMC said that in July, 30 percent of new-vehicle sale loans were for 72 months or longer, up from 27 percent last July. "Long-term financing is a key driver in sales growth," said John Humphrey of J.D. Power. "Loan terms and credit availability are bringing consumers back into the market who have been shut out since the recession began in 2008." J.D. Power-LMC maintained their forecast for full-year light vehicle sales at 14.5 million. Jeff Schuster of LMC said sales may drop if the U.S. labor market weakens. Vehicle inventory in July rose to 58 days of supply from 52 days of supply in June. North American auto production is forecast at 14.9 million vehicles, which would be the highest level since 2007, and a 14 percent increase from 2011, Schuster said. TrueCar said that Honda Motor Co will see the largest year-on-year rise in sales from last July, at 45 percent, followed by Volkswagen AG at 30 percent, Toyota Motor Corp at 22 percent and Chrysler Group LLC at 17.5 percent. Chrysler is majority-owned by Fiat SpA. Honda and Toyota both had poor mid-year sales in 2011 due to a lack of inventory linked to the March earthquake in Japan. TrueCar said it expects General Motors Co to show sales flat from a year ago and Ford Motor Co down 1 percent.
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