Analysis

The global auto industry rounded the bend into second-half 2011, outpacing July year-ago sales by just 1.2%.

But the 6.15 million vehicle deliveries worldwide marked the lowest monthly total since February and fell 3.3% below the previous 12-month average of 6.36 million.

July’s slight improvement over June’s 1.1% jump marked the first time in eight months the year-over-year growth rate improved.

The now-familiar refrain of low supply was joined by a chorus of concerns about the state of the global economy. Deliveries declined as worries about the credit status of major countries including the U.S. and France grew.

Deliveries across Asia/Pacific slipped 1% to 2.49 million vehicles in July, leaving the region with a 40.1% share of global sales, up slightly from June.

Japan’s vehicle market continued to struggle in the aftermath of the natural disasters that rocked the country in March. With July deliveries down 23.3%, the nation’s year-to-date total is 27.1% below year-ago.

Nonetheless, Japan’s 373,000 July vehicle sales made the island nation the world’s third-largest market for cars and trucks.

A mini-boom took hold in China, the world’s largest vehicle market, as deliveries totaled 1.28 million for a 4.9% increase from year-ago, a decided improvement over June’s 1.8% uptick.

Through July, China sales were tracking 3% ahead of like-2010.

Related document: World Vehicle Sales Summary

In the U.S, the world’s No.2 vehicle market, deliveries inched up just 1.4% as inventory issues and unemployment continued to hamper growth. Mexico climbed 10%, but with Canada’s deliveries dipping 4.5%, North America sales finished just 1.1% above year-ago.

Still, the region’s 1.3 million-unit total put it ahead of China in monthly sales for the first time since July 2010. The tally also was enough to account for 21.1% of world sales.

Vehicle deliveries in Europe rose 3%, led by Germany’s 10.7% hike on 289,000 deliveries and Russia’s 26% boost to 235,000. Collectively, the region’s markets comprised 25.6% world sales for the month.

South America outperformed the rest of the world with a 6% bump in monthly sales, accounting for 7.7% of the global market. Brazil’s 306,000-unit total was good enough for fourth place worldwide, well ahead of No. 5 Germany.

Through July, 2011 global vehicle sales tallied 45.36 million, nearly 2 million units, or 4.6%, ahead of year-ago.

jsousanis@wardsauto.com