(Adds industry data, executive’s comments, sales by brand)
SAO PAULO, July 6 (Reuters) - Auto production in Brazil tumbled in June to the lowest level since January 2009, putting more jobs at risk in the country’s fragile car industry and undermining hopes for an economic recovery.
Output of cars, trucks and buses dropped 12.5 percent and sales slipped 0.1 percent in June from May despite two extra weekdays, the national automakers’ association Anfavea said on Monday. Compared to a year ago, auto output fell 14.8 percent and sales plunged 19.4 percent.
With no sign of demand rebounding amid higher interest rates and inflation, automakers are trying to limit losses by cutting deeper into payrolls, which have shrunk 8 percent in the past 12 months.
Brazil is one of the world’s five biggest auto markets and a major base of operations for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV , Volkswagen AG, General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co.
Automakers in Brazil produced about 184,000 new cars and trucks last month, the weakest since roughly 180,000 vehicles in January 2009, near the depths of the global financial crisis.
Automakers, which contribute about a fifth of Brazil’s industrial output, have also struggled to sell cars without tax incentives that President Dilma Rousseff cut this year as part of an unpopular austerity program.
With inventories of nearly 340,000 vehicles sitting idle, Anfavea President Luiz Moan said car makers would continue to limit production at least through the end of August.
Around 36,000 workers in the auto industry, or about a quarter of the total workforce, are on paid leave, Moan said, underscoring the fragile situation for many workers.
According to Anfavea data, Fiat remained Brazil’s top seller of cars and light trucks in June, with about 36,700 new registrations. VW stole second place from GM with around 30,100 sales, ahead of its U.S. rival’s nearly 27,500 new registrations. Ford sold around 20,400 vehicles. (Reporting by Alberto Alerigi Jr.; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Richard Chang)