Explorer sales rose 12.9 percent in July

The auto industry's move away from rental fleet sales weighed heavily on overall July results

This year, big cuts in sales to rental vehicle fleets and commercial customers were also a factor.

Several of the big automakers, including Ford, GM, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Nissan Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor Co. announced they sharply reduced sales of rental cars during July, and portrayed those choices as placing profit in front of sales volume.

Analysts have been predicting lower sales this year as demand levels out after an unprecedented seven straight years of growth.

USA sales of new cars and trucks fell 7 percent to 1.4 million in July, according to Autodata Corp.

In a more troubling sign for Detroit, combined sales of large pickups fell 4 percent, and sales of large sport utility vehicles declined by 20 percent. Sales of those profitable workhorses slipped only 0.8 percent compared with double-digit declines for compact and mid-sized cars, according to estimates from Kelley Blue Book.

Ford Motor Company's stock price fell almost 3% following the release of its July sales report. New vehicle sales hit a record 17.55 million a year ago.

GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler have said second-half financial results likely will be lower than first-half results, in part reflecting production cuts in North America and pricing pressures.

"We're still operating at a very high level", LaNeve said.

Fiat Chrysler's Ram truck division had flat sales, but Jeep fell 12.3 percent, Chrysler fell 30.1 percent, Dodge was off by 11.9 percent and Fiat lost 18 percent.

Auto sales are plummeting, hurt by low gas prices and changing tastes, though automakers continue to see healthy profits thanks to consumers' preference for SUVs.

Retail sales fell by only 1%, with Ford's share of the retail market actually increasing over the last three months inluding July.

Gutierrez said buyers can expect incentives to rise by about $200 in August and September.

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