To get lower monthly payments when the price is higher, buyers are stretching out their loans and leasing more vehicles, according to LMC. Thirty percent of car loans now are six years or longer, up from 29 percent in the first half of last year. Leasing, which generally lowers monthly payments, accounts for 24 percent of auto sales, up from 21 percent a year ago, LMC said.
Tim Tremonte, 22, of Somerville, Mass., recently got a three-year lease on a new Nissan Sentra that's loaded with options. Tremonte, who works for a Jeep dealership, added navigation, a backup camera and a sunroof because those features increase the car's residual value. Higher residuals help lower monthly lease payments. Tremonte put $300 down and now pays $250 per month for the car.
Here are more details from individual automakers:
— GM said its July U.S. sales rose 16 percent to 234,071. Sales of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups combined rose 46 percent. Roughly 15 percent of the trucks sold were the new versions, which went on sale in June. Sales of the Cruze small car jumped 70 percent.
— Ford sold 193,715 vehicles. Ford's 11-percent increase was led by the F-Series pickup, with sales up 23 percent. Ford Fusion sedan sales dropped 12 percent as the company struggled to meet demand with its current production capacity. But Ford said more Fusions will be available this fall after it adds a shift to a Michigan plant.
— Toyota's sales rose 17 percent to 193,394. The Prius hybrid jumped 40 percent while the midsize Camry rose 16 percent to 34,780 and remained the country's best-selling car. Lexus sales were up 38 percent on the strength of the new IS sedan.
— Honda's sales jumped 21 percent to 141,439. The CR-V and Pilot SUVs both saw 32.5 percent gains.
— Chrysler's sales rose 11 percent to 140,102. Ram pickup sales rose 31 percent over a year ago, buoyed by the improving housing market. Jeep Grand Cherokee sales rose 30 percent, the SUV's best July since 2005.
— Nissan's sales rose 11 percent to 109,041, a July record for the company. Sales of the Altima midsize car rose 11 percent, and sales of the redesigned Pathfinder SUV more than tripled.
— Hyundai's sales rose 6 percent to 66,005 on strong sales of the Santa Fe SUV and Elantra small car.
— Subaru's sales rose 43 percent to 35,994, with Forester sales up 52 percent.