DETROIT (Reuters) - U.S. auto sales growth slowed a bit in July, with healthy gains from some manufacturers falling short of expectations, according to early returns from the major carmakers on Friday.
Ford Motor Co (F.N) reported a gain of 10 percent to 212,236 vehicles, slightly beating the analysts' average estimate of 9 percent. General Motors Co (GM.N) said July sales were up 9 percent at 256,160, missing expectations of 11 percent.
Shares of both companies were up less than 1 percent in early trading.
Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) and Chrysler Group LLC also failed to sell as many cars and trucks in July as analysts had expected.
Nine analysts surveyed by Reuters expect an 11 percent increase in sales for the industry in July. Growth is expected to show a slight dip to a 16.7 million annualised rate from 17 million in June, according to economists polled by Thomson Reuters.
Average transaction prices in July remained firm, averaging $32,556 ( 24,242.19 pounds) per vehicle, according to research firm Kelley Blue Book.
Chrysler sales rose 20 percent to 167,667 vehicles in July, its best posting for that month since 2005. Ford also said its sales were its highest in July in eight years.
Sales growth of full-size pickup trucks, a bellwether for the U.S. economy, slowed in July.
Ford's best-selling F-Series pickup rose 5 percent to 63,240. Sales of the full-size Chevrolet Silverado pickup were flat at 42,097, while the GMC Sierra was up 5 percent to 17,488. Chrysler's Ram pickup climbed 14 percent to 35,621.
Gains in U.S. auto sales have been stronger than the overall economy since the recession. Still, the monthly figures provide an early glimpse into consumer spending.
Auto sales dropped to a low of 10.4 million vehicles in 2009 and have risen steadily since, reaching 15.6 million last year. They are on a pace for about 16.4 million this year, in part because of easier credit and loans of up to 84 months.
In a posting on Twitter, Hyundai Motor Co (005380.KS) said its U.S. July sales rose 1.5 percent to 67,011 vehicles, an all-time record for that month.
On Friday in Turin, Italy, where Chrysler parent Fiat FIA.MI is headquartered for now, shareholders are expected to approve a merger that will create Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, to be registered in the Netherlands.
Fiat has relied on the resurgence of Chrysler in North America since the No. 3 U.S. automaker's 2009 government-sponsored bankruptcy as Europe's auto sales flagged.
Sales of Chrysler's Jeep SUV brand, which Fiat Chrysler sees as a linchpin in its global growth, rose 41 percent in July.
Editing by Mark Potter and Lisa Von Ahn