Car shoppers worried about the U.S. economy last month, and that kept sales in a funk.
U.S. sales of new cars and light trucks are expected to rise only slightly in July. The weak economy and high sticker prices kept Americans from buying more. Automakers are scheduled to report last month's sales today.
July extends a disappointing stretch for automakers following a strong start this year. Sales slowed in May and June after an earthquake in Japan cut into supplies of small cars that were in demand because of high gas prices. Those shortages -- and higher car prices -- turned off many buyers.
Edmunds said supply constraints began to ease for Japanese automakers in July. Sales are forecast at 1.06 million, up 1.6 percent from last July, according to the automotive website.
Toyota Motor Corp. has been producing eight of its 12 North American-built cars and SUVs at full capacity since the beginning of June, and in July those vehicles reached dealer lots. Its U.S. sales will likely fall compared with last July but are up 21 percent from June.
"Inventory issues are not seriously holding back Toyota anymore," said Jessica Caldwell, a senior analyst at Edmunds.
Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. were also expected to sell more vehicles compared with June.
But even as dealers replenished their lots, buyers remained hesitant. Unemployment is high, and consumers' confidence in the economy -- which is crucial for car sales -- remains low.
Car prices remain relatively high, too, for buyers who have become accustomed to big summertime sales.
Automakers spent an average of $2,418 per vehicle on incentives, down 15 percent from last July, according to car pricing site TrueCar.com.