June was a phenomenal month for automakers, as the U.S. seasonally adjusted annual rate for light vehicles came in at 15.98 million vehicles, much higher than anything we've seen since the recession. For the first time in almost two decades, all three domestic automakers -- Ford (NYSE:F), General Motors (NYSE:GM), and Chrysler -- gained market share in the first quarter. With no further ado, here are the top five best-selling light vehicles in June.
1. Ford F-Series -- 68,009 units sold in June, up 23.6% from last year
This should come as no surprise, since the F-Series has been America's best-selling vehicle for 31 years and the best-selling truck for 36 years. Ford has dominated the full-size pickup truck market and has done so in an impressive fashion since rival GM took a government bailout -- giving more consumers a big reason to buy Ford. Consumers and investors love the truck for different reasons. For consumers, it's a tough and tested work truck, with improved gas mileage to be an everyday vehicle as well. For investors, this vehicle brings in a majority of Ford's profits, so the better the sales are, the better investment Ford becomes. Everyone is happy this year.
2. Chevrolet Silverado -- 43,259 units sold in June, up 28.9% from last year
GM's Chevy Silverado has some work to do. While being second place is still a big win, it trails Ford's F-Series by a large amount. Chevy also had to dish out a significant amount of incentives, as its 2014 model is rolling into the lots and competing with the 2013 model -- both with the same price tag. GM just kicked off its marketing and advertising campaign to try to boost sales to catch its longtime Ford rival. We probably won't see the Silverado top the F-Series anytime soon, but the gap could narrow over the summer months.
3. Toyota Camry -- 35,870 units sold in June, up 11.7% from last year
Toyota's (NYSE:TM) Camry has long held the best-selling car position in the U.S. market. While it's up 11.7% compared with last year, a rising tide in June raised all boats -- it's actually down 2.9% for the year, compared with 2012. This is no surprise, as Nissan's Altima and Ford's Fusion are gaining ground quickly by introducing stylish designs in a normally bland segment. Sensing the competition, Toyota redesigned the Camry last year to give it more personality and a better interior. The midsize sedan segment is highly competitive, but Camry still stands on top because of its history of dependability and fuel efficiency.
4. Chevrolet Cruze -- 32,871 units sold in June, up 73.2% from last year
GM's Chevrolet Cruze made a splash this June, with its sales up significantly. GM's compact car changed things up in its segment when it was introduced in 2011, instantly challenging Honda's Civic or the Toyota Corolla -- an unusual event for domestic automakers. It's refreshing to see domestic automakers able to compete in small and fuel-efficient segments. Chevrolet's Cruze is a great sign for the future of GM, which has a long uphill battle to regain lost consumers from years of poor-quality vehicles and a government bailout.
5. Honda Accord -- 31,677 units sold in June, up 9.5% from last year
Here's another winner in the ultra-competitive midsize sedan segment. Honda's (NYSE:HMC) 2013 Accord was redesigned and comes in much smaller and more spacious than its predecessor. Some critics were worried that the new Accord would follow in footsteps of Honda's Civic, which disappointed with a very plain interior. That isn't the case. The Accord has a much more premium feel, with higher-quality materials and a sleek look. It also added a little power to its 2.4-liter engine, while upgrading its V-6 to push out 278 hp.
Being in the top five for sales is hugely important for each automaker. It represents large volumes that can quickly gain or lose overall market share for each automaker. In GM and Ford's case, it means even more than market share. It decides the sales leader in the most profitable segment on the planet -- full-size trucks. Right now, the industry as a whole is seeing transaction prices increase, while incentive spending is down. As our economy gradually improves, this is a winning formula for all involved, and the automakers on top will be positioned to bring in a nice yearly profit. Expect Ford and Toyota to both bring in impressive second-quarter earnings reports.