A 2016 Ford Focus RS and Mustang GT are seen on display at the LA Auto Show held at the Convention Center in Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 18, 2015. Tuesday, figures showed that automobile sales in the United States slowed significantly during the month of July -- with Ford, General Motors and Toyota reporting declines in sales. File Photo by Phil McCarten/UPI | License Photo
DETROIT, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- The substantial growth that lasted for six years in the resurgent U.S. automobile industry might finally be leveling off, according to sales figures for July.
Gains by Nissan and Honda last month were overshadowed by declines at the world's three largest automakers -- Ford, General Motors and Toyota. Overall, U.S. auto sales increased by only 0.7 percent, research firm Autodata Corp. reported Tuesday.
Sales declined by 3 percent at Ford Motor Co., in July, 4 percent at General Motors and 1.4 percent at Toyota.
Honda and Nissan reported increases of 4.4 and 1.2 percent, respectively. The other major American automaker, Fiat Chrysler, posted a gain of 0.3 percent, and Mercedes-Benz USA saw a 3.6 percent rise.
The July figures indicate that the six-year auto industry bonanza might be slowing to a crawl, analysts said Tuesday. The industry's success has been a key component of the rebounded U.S. economy since the financial crisis of 2008-09.
For years, strong demand has allowed dealers to keep incentives and discounts in check -- which added to the industry's overall health.
"I think we're going to settle into a period with a more relaxed buyer attitude," Kelley Blue Book expert Karl Brauer said. "It's going to be harder for the auto companies to pull buyers in without using more creative incentives."
Volkswagen AG, still reeling from its emissions scandal, said its U.S. sales fell 8 percent while BMW's sales fell 5 percent.
While July auto sales were lackluster, some industry officials aren't terribly worried they will lead to trouble in the future.
"It's a more competitive market than we've seen in the last five or six years," Ford U.S. sales chief Mark LaNeve said in a conference call Tuesday. "It is an indication of a plateauing market that the major players are going to try to protect market share."
Last year, Americans bought 17.5 million vehicles -- which might end up being the peak of the recent six-year stretch. The low came in 2010, with less than 11 million vehicles sold in the United States.