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U.S. auto sales strong in July on SUV, luxury demand

Sales of new cars and trucks were expected to rise 3 percent

In this Thursday, July 2, 2015, photo, Robert Schemer, his wife, Kelly, and their son Graham, 9, pose next to their newly purchased pre-owned 2013 Ford Flex Limited, at the Star Ford Lincoln dealership in Glendale, Calif. At right is sales consultant Allan Calix. Summer deals and big demand for SUVs and luxury vehicles kept U.S. auto sales strong in July, according to reports released, Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
In this Thursday, July 2, 2015, photo, Robert Schemer, his wife, Kelly, and their son Graham, 9, pose next to their newly purchased pre-owned 2013 Ford Flex Limited, at the Star Ford Lincoln dealership in Glendale, Calif. At right is sales consultant Allan Calix. Summer deals and big demand for SUVs and luxury vehicles kept U.S. auto sales strong in July, according to reports released, Monday, Aug. 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

DETROIT – Summer deals and big demand for SUVs and luxury vehicles kept U.S. auto sales strong in July.

Sales of new cars and trucks were expected to rise 3 percent to nearly 1.5 million, according to car shopping site TrueCar.com.

Fiat Chrysler's U.S. sales rose 6 percent over last July, while Nissan's U.S. sales were up 8 percent. Both companies benefited from surging sales of small SUVs. Sales of Nissan's new Rogue jumped 51 percent, and Nissan said sales of its trucks and SUVs set a July record.

Other automakers will report July sales later Monday.

Automakers lured buyers with summer discounts to clear out 2015 models. Toyota was offering zero-percent financing for five years on new Camrys; buyers could also get zero-percent financing for six years on Ford Escapes.

Relatively low gas prices are also boosting sales of trucks and SUVs. But buyers are also showing their confidence with an increasing penchant for luxury vehicles. TrueCar said sales of luxury vehicles are rising at double the pace of mass-market brands. Lincoln — with its new small SUV, the MKC — was among the brands expected to see a big jump in July sales.

Fiat Chrysler's sales rose 6 percent over last July, led by its premium Jeep brand, which saw a 23-percent increase. Ram truck sales were up 1 percent.

Nissan's U.S. sales rose nearly 8 percent to 130,872. Its best-selling vehicle, the Altima sedan, set a July record with sales up 27 percent. Sales of midsize sedans like the Altima have been struggling as buyers pass them over for small SUVs, so automakers have been trying to entice buyers with deals. Nissan was offering zero-percent financing on Altimas in July.

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