Chrysler sales rise 13 pct in best July since 2007

Chrysler 300 Chrysler Group

(MoneyWatch) Chrysler continued its strong performance in July, with sales up 13 percent over a year ago. It was the company's best July since 2007.

Chrysler's results were driven by big increases in a variety of models. The Chrysler 300 sedan was up 41 percent, the Jeep Grand Cherokee up 22 percent and the Dodge Journey 69 percent.

"July was another solid month for Chrysler Group as we again demonstrated our disciplined and methodical approach to growing sales and profits," said Reid Bigland, head of U.S. sales.

In results reported yesterday, Chrysler Group's net income for the second quarter was $436 million - a 141 percent improvement over a year earlier. Revenue for the quarter was $16.8 million, up 23 percent and reflecting a 22 percent increase in the shipment of its vehicles.

Chrysler itself has little exposure in Europe, where economic troubles are dragging down sales. But its parent company, Italian auto maker Fiat, reported a $226 million loss for the quarter.

When full July results are reported by later today, they are expected to show a continuing loss of market share for General Motors and Ford and gains by Toyota and Honda. The Chrysler sales should translate to a 10.5 percent share, about even from a year ago. GM's market share should be 18.4 percent and Ford's 15.1 percent -- both two percentage point drops from a year ago, according to projections by Edmunds.com.

Meanwhile Toyota's share should be 14.5 percent, up two percentage points pushed by strong sales for its redesigned 2012 Camry. Honda's share is projected at 10.6 percent -- a three point gain. Honda and Toyota were hampered by low inventory in July 2011 in the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

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Edmunds.com analyst Jessica Caldwell points out that July is traditionally a low month for rental company and other fleet sales, so that strong sales reflect genuine consumer demand. At Kelley Blue Book, senior market analyst Alec Gutierrez adds that the record 11-year average age of cars on the road is a major factor in continuing sales. "Today's rebound is driven by pent-up demand from consumers who delayed their purchase during the downturn. In our survey, 30 percent of consumers said the primary reason they are shopping for a new vehicle is because their existing vehicle's mileage is too high."

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