It's looking like June was another strong month for auto sales in the U.S., despite the Federal Reserve's suggestions that it would roll back its bond-buying program and let interest rates rise.
Analysts polled by Bloomberg are calling for a 7.1% year-over-year increase in U.S. light-vehicle sales for June. ("Light vehicles" are cars, pickups, and SUVs.)
That increase would mean that the pace of auto sales in June was the fastest we've seen since 2007. And that's good news for the automakers – though, as always, some appear to have fared much better than others.
Another big month for the Blue Oval
It's looking like Ford (NYSE:F) will be one of those that fared better than most of its rivals. Last week I noted that a couple of leading analysts have predicted that Ford will come in among June's sales leaders, and that appears to be a consensus opinion.
Bloomberg surveyed 11 analysts and reported on Monday that Ford is likely to report a monthly sales increase of about 12%, the analysts' consensus estimate. That number comes despite Ford's own concerns about the Fed's shift in position.
Ford's Americas chief, Joe Hinrichs, told reporters last week that the Fed's moves, which roiled the stock markets, might have led to a slowdown in sales in the later part of June. Auto sales often decline when the stock market is dropping – both reflect acute drops in consumer confidence, to some extent.
But it's likely that Ford's overall June numbers will reflect continued momentum on the fronts where the Blue Oval has been especially strong recently: pickups, the Escape SUV, and the white-hot Fusion sedan. That's good news for Ford's second-quarter profits, which will be reported later this month.
Nissan's yen-fueled winning streak could continue
Among Ford's rivals, Nissan (OTC:NSANY) also looks set to continue its winning ways in June. Analysts polled by Bloomberg predict a 13% gain, which likely led the market. After a lackluster beginning to 2013, Nissan's U.S. sales took off in May, powered by several strong new models – and by price cuts and increased incentives that the automaker put in place at the beginning of the month.
The Japanese government's moves to devalue the yen have given Nissan and its Japanese rivals some room to cut prices in the U.S., at least on paper. Put simply, the "devaluation" of the yen means that exchange rates have moved in such a way that a U.S. dollar now buys more yen than it did at the beginning of the year. That means that the Japanese automakers can theoretically charge fewer dollars for their products in the U.S. and still have profits once those dollars are converted to yen.
Will the Japanese push back on Ford's growth streak?
The U.S. automakers have been watching carefully to see if their Japanese rivals would use the exchange-rate shift to mount an aggressive campaign here. This is of particular concern to Ford, whose Fusion has been gaining ground in a segment dominated by Japanese cars like Toyota's (NYSE:TM) Camry and Honda's (NYSE:HMC) Accord, and Ford CEO Alan Mulally has been outspoken in his criticism of the Japanese government's actions in recent weeks.
So far, though, it doesn't look like Toyota and Honda have made the kind of dramatic moves that Nissan did at the beginning of May. Will that change, and if it does, how will it impact Ford? Stay tuned.