Truck and SUV sales drove strong October sales at Chrysler Group LLC and General Motors Co., while Ford Motor Co. had a small decline compared to a year ago as it manages inventory in preparation for the introduction of the 2015 F-150 pickup.

Chrysler posted its best October sales results since 2001, up 21.7 percent to 170,480, thanks to strong performances by its Jeep and Ram brands. GM’s sales increased 0.2 percent to 222,819, its best October numbers since 2007. Ford sales fell 1.7 percent, although it saw strong performances by its sport utilities and its Lincoln luxury brand, specifically the MKC crossover.

Ford sold 188,654 vehicles last month, and those sales were driven by the Fusion’s 5 percent increase, an October record. In addition to the Fusion, Ford’s Escape, Explorer and Transit Connect each posted October records.

Sales of the automaker’s Lincoln luxury brand were up 24.6 percent thanks to the newly released MKC crossover and a refreshed Navigator.

 Graphic

“We’re proud to see this momentum building for MKC and the Lincoln brand,” John Felice, Ford’s vice president, U.S. marketing, sales and service, said on a conference call with reporters and analysts. “Our inventories are right where we need them to be.”

F-series sales were down 0.6 percent as Ford prepares for the changeover to the new truck, which will go on sale later this year.

Ford’s daily rental sales declined 13 percent, part of a calculated drop in that part of the business. Government and commercial sales were up 4 percent and 18 percent, respectively.

GM was helped by sales of the new Colorado and Canyon, but was hurt by the Captiva Sport, a fleet vehicle it stopped selling in the U.S. over the summer. Chevrolet will begin selling a small Trax crossover in early 2015.

Encore sales were up 32.7 percent last month, leading GM’s Buick brand to a 6.5 percent sales increase. Cadillac sales were down 8 percent, but the Escalade and CTS sold well, up 30 percent and 49.3 percent, respectively.

Sales of GM’s Chevrolet brand increased 0.5 percent, driven by a 51 percent increase in sales of its Cruze compact car and a 24 percent increase for the Traverse SUV.

GM’s average transaction price reached a record $34,700 in October, up $2,200 year-over-year, according to estimates.

“The U.S. economy has steadily improved all year and now we are poised for a stronger expansion backed by an improved job market, higher consumer confidence and lower fuel prices,” Kurt McNeil, U.S. vice president of sales operations, said in a statement. “We have a strong hand to play, with the industry’s newest and most complete line-up of pickups and SUVs, class-leading crossovers like the Buick Encore and a wealth of new products in the pipeline.”

Chrysler was boosted by Jeep sales, which increased 51.7 percent over the same month last year, and Ram truck sales increased 35.9 percent.

Overall, nine Chrysler Group vehicles posted best-ever October numbers.

“Chrysler Group sales increased 22 percent in October, our eighth month of double-digit growth this year and our 55th consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains,” Reid Bigland, head of U.S. sales, said in a statement. “Chrysler Group is the industry’s fastest-growing automaker driven in part by sales of our all-new Jeep Cherokee and Chrysler 200 mid-size sedan, and by the strong consumer demand for our award-winning Ram pickup trucks.”

Among Jeep vehicles, the Wrangler, Patriot and new Cherokee posted their best-ever October sales. The Cherokee was the brand’s highest-volume seller for the second-straight month.

Every Chrysler, Jeep and Ram vehicle saw year-over-year sales growth in October.

Nissan Motor Co.’s October sales increased 13.3 percent over last year to a record 103,117, driven by the popularity of utilities and small cars like the Rouge and Versa, the automaker said Monday.

Honda Motor Co. on Monday reported a 5.8 percent October sales increase over the same month last year. The automaker’s Honda brand was paced by the new 2015 CR-V and Honda Fit, which set October sales records. Volkswagen Group of America reported a 7.8 percent sales increase. Toyota’s October sales increased 6.9 percent.

 Graphic

Industry analysts expect better numbers for most automakers than this time a year ago.

California-based Edmunds.com predicts the annual rate of sales will reach 16.3 million, and that October sales will increase 6.4 percent over the same period a year ago. Kelley Blue Book, LMC Automotive and TrueCar expect similar gains as truck and compact SUV sales continue to drive the market.

“Car and truck sales have settled into a groove,” Edmunds.com senior analyst Jessica Caldwell said in a statement. “Dealers are welcoming a consistent flow of shoppers into their showrooms, and the pace will likely remain steady through the end of the year. With declining gas prices and strong truck and SUV sales, the industry is poised for a very busy holiday season.”

Barclays expects the annualized rate of sales will hit 16.4 million, but that October auto sales won’t be strong in the final few days of the month. It expects things to pick up again when the holiday season starts next month.

Most forecasters predict the strong sales should continue through the remainder of 2014.

“The current environment of the auto industry is one of strength and stability, with the second half of the year at a 16.6 million-unit pace, more than making up for the 16.1 million unit level in the first half of 2014,” Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive, said in a statement. “The market is clearly seeing a second wave of SUV popularity — with a wide variety of choices across the size spectrum — that will likely dominate market share for the foreseeable future.”

mmartinez@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2401

Twitter.com/MikeMartinez_DN