Year-over-year growth in the world vehicle market slipped below 10% for the first time this year, with July sales outpacing same-month 2009 figures by just 6.5%.

Monthly sales of roughly 6.1 million units brought the year-to-date tally for the first seven months to 43.4 million cars and trucks – up 18.4% from like-2009. It marked the first time year-to-date sales growth finished below 20% in 2010.

July sales, which typically fall short of June volumes, were down 7.1%: A year ago, sales dipped just 2.5% from June to July. Last month’s tally was the lowest since February and continued a trend of declining growth.

Since January, when deliveries shot 33.6% ahead of like-2009, the year-over-year margin steadily has decreased. But the drop in growth from 12.3% in June to nearly half that in July indicates the trend toward flat sales could be accelerating.

Current trend-lines indicate 2010 vehicle sales could show zero growth as soon October.

Related document: World Vehicle Sales Summary

Despite cooling off from June’s pace, July recorded the second-highest monthly sales volume of 2010 and was the fourth consecutive month in which global deliveries exceeded 6 million.

Analysis

Asia/Pacific growth has slowed (sales in China were up just 14.4% over year-ago), although the region still accounted for 37.5% of global deliveries. Total sales were up 17%, and the Asia/Pacific markets continue to track well ahead of the rest of the world, where fears of a returning recession are growing.

North America’s monthly sales rose just 5.8% against like-2009’s “Cash-for-Clunkers”-boosted performance, with only Mexico (up 10.6%) posting double-digit improvement. The region held a 21.3% share of the global industry.

With terrible news coming out of the U.S. housing market in July, and August 2009’s scrappage-fueled sales spike looming, North America sales are expected to fall below year-ago levels this month.

Europe’s post-scrappage doldrums, exacerbated by regional economic fears, continue to depress the industry, with new-vehicle sales (down 7.1%) falling below year-ago for the third time in the past four months. However, with growth in the other world regions slowing, Europe’s market share rose to 29.3% from 25.5% in June.

Like China, Brazil (up 1.2%) is seeing its astronomical growth rate of recent months return to Earth.

However, smaller South American markets, such as Argentina (up 23.4%) and Venezuela (up 23.6%), now are experiencing their own explosive growth, lifting regional sales an estimated 13% over year-ago.

South America accounted for 5.1% of world sales in July.

jsousanis@wardsauto.com