Pickups help to drive up August US auto sales

DETROIT (AP) — Strong demand for pickups fueled a big jump in U.S. auto sales last month.

GM’s August U.S. sales rose 10 percent compared with a year earlier, while Ford’s rose 13 percent and Chrysler’s 14 percent.

Americans flowed steadily into auto dealer showrooms, ignoring high gas prices, hot temperatures, poor economic numbers and even a hurricane. Model-year closeouts and appealing new cars made it even easier for buyers to replace rapidly aging vehicles last month.

Pickup trucks, traditionally the top sellers in the U.S., seemed to drive much of the business. Sales of Ford’s F-Series trucks rose 19 percent, while Chrysler’s Ram jumped by the same amount. GM’s Chevrolet Silverado, among the oldest trucks in the market, saw a 4-percent sales increase.

Toyota and Volkswagen did well in car sales.

Yingzi Su, GM’s senior economist, said the overall increase was due mainly to pent-up demand as consumers and businesses were forced to replace aging cars and pickup trucks. The average age of a vehicle on U.S. road is approaching 11 years.

“People have been holding off new purchases for such a long time, since 2008 to now,” she said, adding that even though the economy is growing slowly, auto sales are seeing overall improvements.

When all automakers finish reporting results later Tuesday, sales could hit more than 1.2 million vehicles for August, up around 20 percent from a year earlier, analysts predict. The annual pace is expected to reach 14.2 million to 14.5 million vehicles, making August the second-best month of the year.

Toyota, which now has a full inventory of new cars at its dealers, continued its recovery from bad sales last year. Its sales grew almost 46 percent. Nissan’s sales climbed almost 8 percent, and Volkswagen continued its staggering growth with sales up 63 percent on strong demand for the Jetta and Passat sedans.

For pickups, a better housing market appeared to be the driver: Builders are getting more permits to start home construction and they have been breaking more ground on projects.

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