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U.S. sales of pickup trucks, such as this 2018 Toyota Tacoma TRD 4x4, are still strong, while passenger cars continue to fall out of favour.

Rebecca Cook/Reuters

Major automakers on Tuesday posted mixed U.S. sales results for June and the second quarter, with demand still fairly strong for SUVs and pickup trucks while passenger car sales continued a long-running decline.

Over all, U.S. auto sales are slowing after a long bull run that has satiated replacement demand.

In a significant development for the pickup truck segment, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV’s (FCA) Ram pickup outsold General Motors Co.’s Chevrolet Silverado in the second quarter. GM reports sales on a quarterly basis instead of each month.

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The Silverado has long held second place behind Ford Motor Co.’s F-Series pickup trucks, with Ram often a distant third. But for the first six months of 2019, FCA’s sales of Ram pickups outpaced Chevy Silverado sales by more than 40,000 vehicles.

FCA, GM and Ford escalated a price war in June over pickup trucks – one of the few vehicle market segments that offers substantial profit, which matters at a time when overall U.S. new vehicle sales are expected to fall this year.

High interest rates, plus competition from millions of nearly new, off-lease vehicles have translated into fewer consumers splurging on new cars.

After a weak start to the year, sales in the past couple of months have been largely flat compared with 2018.

“The market is not as down as it was to start off the year, which says a lot about market stability,” said George Augustaitis, director of industry analysis at CarGurus Inc., an online marketplace for new and used cars. “At this point, a Fed interest-rate cut could be the thing that sparks the industry.”

FCA said its sales rose 2 per cent in June, driven by a 56-per-cent jump in Ram sales.

GM said second-quarter sales fell 1.5 per cent, with strong SUV sales offset by a poor performance for its pickup trucks. The No. 1 U.S. automaker said sales of its trucks would pick up in the third quarter as both its most popular and most affordable versions of the Silverado will hit dealer showrooms.

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Toyota Motor Corp. reported a 3.5-per-cent drop in sales for June, led by falling sedan sales.

In the past few years, Americans have increasingly shunned passenger cars in favour of larger, more comfortable SUVs and pickup trucks.

Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.’s sales plunged nearly 15 per cent, with huge drops for much of its lineup including the bestselling Rogue SUV. After years of relying on steep discounts to increase U.S. market share, Nissan is trying to pull back so it can sell vehicles more profitably.

Billy Hayes, Nissan’s North American vice-president for sales, said many of the automaker’s models will be revamped in the next year or two, which will help lift sales.

“We’re bullish on the market and we see positive conditions for our all-new models,” he said. “We’re working to win in the long term.”

Hyundai Motor Co. on Tuesday reported a 1.5-per-cent rise in U.S. sales for June, lifted by strong demand for SUVs and trucks.

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