Domestic auto sales sizzled in July, helped by discounts

Big discounts helped keep U.S. auto sales sizzling in July.

General Motors, Ford, Nissan and Chrysler all reported big gains as the major automakers reported July sales Friday.

Industry sales were expected to rise 5 percent to 1.4 million, according to J.D. Power and Associates. That would make it the best July for the industry since 2006.

Generous summer discounts helped boost sales, said Jesse Toprak, the chief analyst at the car shopping site Cars.com. Toprak said the average price buyers paid fell 4 percent in July, while incentives were up 8 percent — or $216 per vehicle — over last July.

Automakers typically use summer discounts to clear out their lots before vehicles from the new model year start arriving in the fall.

According to Toprak, incentives averaged $2,774 per vehicle, their highest level since August 2010. He said Ford, Hyundai, Kia, Toyota and Volkswagen boosted incentives the most.

Chrysler's U.S. sales jumped 20 percent for the month on strong demand for the Ram pickup, while Ford's were up 10 percent on big gains for the Escape and Explorer SUVs.

GM's sales rose 9 percent on strong demand for its new large SUVs.

Nissan's sales rose 11 percent. Sales of the electric Leaf increased 62 percent to 3,019, a record July for the car. The car went on sale in 2010.

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