Consumers, especially those favoring Ford and General Motors vehicles, pulled back in July as an increasing amount of bad news about the economy, some driven by overblown election year politics, dampened enthusiasm for spending on big-ticket cars and trucks.

Overall auto sales looked pretty good, clocking in at an annualized rate of 14.1 million. That is below the rate of 14.4 million for all of this year being forecast by Wall Street firm Morgan Stanley.

"It's tough to blame consumers for being a bit cautious, not rushing out to spend $30,000 on a new vehicle unless the on they have is falling apart," said AOL Autos editor-in-chief David Kiley. "Between the election-year ads that make things appear as worse as possible, headlines about how companies are cutting back to deal with the big problems in Europe, and the slow growth of the U.S. economy, it is enough to make anyone think twice, or delay their purchase."

Industry sales were up 10 percent from the same onto a year ago. But GM reported a 6.4 percent decline, and Ford posted a 3.8 percent drop. Chrysler, on the other hand, continued to show strong growth, with a 13 percent rise. Toyota was the big winner, with a 26 percent rise above July of last year when the Japanese automaker was short of many models in the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake that damaged some of its factories and supply line.

Part of the decline reported by Ford and GM reflects lower sales to rental car fleets, which have been paring their sales and running cars for longer periods of time before they get replaced. Ford's sales to retail customers were actually up 2 percent in July, though GM's were still down 3 percent.

The average age of cars and trucks on the road today is more than ten years, quite old by historical comparison. That age reflects depressed consumer confidence, as well as the fact that cars and trucks are built better than ever and are lasting longer.

Other winners in July include Audi, which posted a record July with almost 12,000 vehicles sold. Hyundai, Volkswagen and Subaru also posted double-digit growth.

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