Top 10 Best-Selling Cars: July 2012

Automakers had a mixed July as shoppers paid more for their cars. CNW Marketing Research says average transaction prices increased 8.5% versus July 2011 — the third month in a row of year-over-year increases greater than 8%. Compounding all this was the fact that used-car prices declined for the third straight month in July, according to vehicle auction firm Manheim, though they remain higher than at any point before November 2010. Would new-car sales stand a chance?

Well, yes. Sales for the top seven automakers rose 9.3% in July as Toyota and Honda roared back from last year’s earthquake-related shortages — or at least perceived shortages, in Toyota's case. Honda was the only Japan Three automaker really pinched on inventory a year ago, Automotive News data shows. Either way, both have made a comeback. July sales flew 45.3% at Honda and 26.1% at Toyota, as cars like the outgoing Honda Accord and redesigned Honda Civic trumped onetime top-10 placers the Chevy Malibu and Hyundai Sonata. It's easy to see why: The Accord has as many incentives as discount-wary Honda would ever unleash, and the Civic's once-paltry inventory is back to near-industry-average levels.

The Malibu crashed hard — it isn't even in the top 18 — as inventory dropped to half the industry supply. Spokesman Jim Cain said GM is "almost out of 2012 Malibus," but’s new-car inventory shows otherwise: Some 56% of Malibus are still 2012s.

Chrysler sales gained 12.6%, but Ford and GM fell 3.5% and 6.4%, respectively, to leave the Detroit Three at a slight loss for the month. GM's losses were the worst of the Big Seven, capping a bad week for an automaker beleaguered by recent high-profile personnel departures.

Why the pain? Ford and GM chalk it up to fleet declines. Ford says overall fleet sales fell 16%, while GM says rental-fleet volume declined 41% as part of a planned drawdown. That could help resale values for both automakers down the road. But other nameplates declined. The Ford Escape fell 11.6% despite a healthy share of redesigned 2013s on dealer lots. The Chevrolet Cruze fared worse, crashing 39.3%. Chevrolet dealers began July with a staggering 90-day Cruze supply — 32 days more than industry average.

Higher incentives brought shoppers to the Ford Fusion, whose sales gained 20.7% for its best July ever. Nissan says the redesigned Altima played a big part in the nameplate's 24.7% sales gain. Factory incentives — up as much as $1,250 versus a year ago — likely helped clear out the prior generation, which still comprises over half of all Altima sedans in’s new-car inventory. Still, the redesign makes up 45.9% of Altima sedan inventory, so it's clearly gaining steam.

Detroit's pickups had a mixed month. Ford turned up its F-Series offers, and the best-selling pickup held steady. GM dropped Chevrolet Silverado incentives, and sales fell 12.5%. Chrysler's Ram pickup gained 17.3% despite slightly lower incentives, and that's even before the updated 2013 model hits dealerships in early October.

Here are July's top 10 best-selling cars:

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Dodge Ford F150 Ford Escape RAM 1500 Nissan Toyota Nissan Altima Ford Fusion Honda Accord Honda Toyota Camry Honda Civic Toyota Matrix Ford Chevrolet Toyota Corolla Best Sellers Car Buying Social Reader

Senior Consumer Affairs Editor Kelsey Mays likes quality, reliability, safety and practicality. But he also likes a fair price.  Email Kelsey


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