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Workers assemble Volkswagen Passat sedans at the German automaker's plant in Chattanooga in this file photo.

Auto sales highlights

June U.S. sales over a year ago:
' Nissan — up 13 percent
' Fiat Chrysler — up 8 percent
' Subaru — up 7.2 percent
' Volkswagen — up 5.6 percent
' Honda — up 4.2 percent
' Toyota — up 4.1 percent
' Hyundai/Kia — up 3 percent
' Ford — up 2 percent.
' General Motors — down 3 percent
Source: Auto companies

Volkswagen of America's June sales climbed over a year ago and enabled the automaker to post back-to-back monthly gains for the first time since early this year.

June sales rose 5.6 percent to 30,436 vehicles on top of an 8.1 percent gain in May.

VW hadn't recorded consecutive monthly increases since December 2014 and last January as the German automaker finally shared in the stronger sales most other automakers have seen this year.

The National Automobile Dealers Association this week raised its forecast for 2015 U.S. auto sales to 17.2 million vehicles from 16.9 million.

Nissan sales were up 13 percent last month over a year ago, Fiat Chrysler grew 8 percent and Subaru rose 7.2 percent.

Tim Fleming, a Kelley Blue Book analyst, said VW's uptick is encouraging, but it still has a long way to go to meet its sales goals.

Sport utility vehicles are "the hot ticket right now," he said, and sales of VW's SUVs are lagging much of the market. While sales of VW's compact Tiguan SUV were up 7.8 percent last month, its midsize Touareg posted a drop of 2.1 percent.

In contrast, sales of Nissan's small Rogue SUV soared 54 percent. Jeep Cherokee figures rose 39 percent. Ford Explorer sales jumped 30 percent, according to the companies.

Taylor McCracken of Lansing, Mich., who was in Chattanooga on Wednesday to visit family, said he recently leased a new Honda CRV sport utility vehicle. With a new 3-month-old baby, he likes the extra room.

Leasing enabled him to get a more affordable monthly payment, McCracken said.

"That's the route we went," he said.

Meanwhile, the sale of new cars and trucks in Hamilton County increased slightly in June. For the first six months, new registrations are up 1.4 percent over 2014, figures show.

VW's sales gain last month was due, in large part, to its updated family of Golfs and its Jetta compact car.

"We continue to see strong results from the Golf family, delivering the best June in 15 years," said Mark McNabb, chief operating officer for Volkswagen of America.

Jetta sedan recorded sales of 10,944, up 8.3 percent for the month

But the Chattanooga-built Passat totaled 6,984 units delivered for June, down 3.3 percent. Passat sales for the year are off 15.2 percent.

Overall, despite the gains in the past couple of months, Volkswagen of America sales in the first half of 2015 were still down by 2.62 percent from last year, declining to 174,442.

Fleming lauded the investment VW is making in its Chattanooga plant to bring on a new SUV. The company is investing $900 million to produce a new midsize SUV, and it plans to hire 2,000 more people for the plant.

But, the new SUV won't hit the dealerships until late next year.

"It's clear they're working on it," Fleming said.

Also, he foresees continued growth in the overall SUV market unless gas prices rise suddenly or the economy falters.

"We could see the trend of consumers preferring utility vehicles for years," Fleming said.

Consumers are finding a number of reasons to buy, including an improved job market, low interest rates and low gas prices. Automakers also are helping themselves by introducing new vehicles faster and loading them up with desirable features. The average new vehicle cost an estimated $31,948 in June, according to the car-buying site TrueCar.com.

The decline in car sales is partly due to lower gas prices. According to AAA, the average price for a gallon of gasoline in the U.S. Wednesday was $2.76, compared with $3.67 on July 1, 2014.

Muscle hasn't lost its appeal. Sales of the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Camaro and Dodge Challenger all rose. Ford sold 11,719 Mustangs, a 54 percent gain and the performance car's best June since 2007.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

 

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