Chrysler, GM, Toyota sales jump, Ford falls 1% – USA TODAY

Posted: Thursday, May 01, 2014

Chrysler and General Motors recorded April sales increases of 14% and 7%, respectively, while Ford sales fell 1%.

Automakers viewed April as a key test of consumer confidence after sluggish sales during the brutal wintry months to start the year, which delayed many consumers’ trips to the showroom. Analysts are projecting an overall increase of 10% for the industry in April.

Toyota posted a 13% increase, while Nissan was up 18% increase and Hyundai’s rose 4%. Volkswagen’s sales fell 8%.

For GM, an 8% increase in retail sales may calm fears that a highly publicized ignition switch recall could hurt sales. GM CEO Mary Barra said last week that the situation has had “no meaningful impact” on sales so far. The April numbers bear that out.

Chevrolet, whose discontinued Cobalt compact is at the heart of the recall, reported a 5% increase. Cadillac sales also rose 5%, Buick’s were up 12%, while GMC sales increased 13%.

“Retail demand was steady in April, and truck sales and transaction prices were especially strong,” said Kurt McNeil, U.S. vice president of sales operations, in a statement. “As we expected, the economy continues to strengthen. In addition, our award-winning new products are performing well, we have more on the way and our dealers are winning accolades for outstanding service.”

Chrysler’s monthly sales rose from a year earlier for the 49th consecutive month. Ram trucks (up 22%) and Jeep SUVs (up 52%) led the way.

Sales were flat for Dodge and tumbled 21% for the Chrysler brand, which offers only two cars and one minivan.

“The spring selling season is heating up as our Jeep brand had its best monthly sales ever,” said Reid Bigland, head of Chrysler’s U.S. sales, in a statement. “Both of our minivans had a strong April and the Ram pickup truck had its best April ever.”

Despite its sales decline for the month, Ford’s F-series truck line, the most popular vehicle in the U.S., rose 7% to 63,387 units. Average industry incentives on full-size trucks fell $680 for the month, while Ford’s fell $380 to about $3,700 per truck, according to sales officials.

Sales of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickup trucks rose 12% sales collectively. But sales of several small and midsize cars fell, including the Chevrolet Sonic, Cruze and Malibu.

GM truck incentives rose 16% for the month, while Ram truck incentives fell 22% and Ford truck incentives were down 9%, according to Barclays.

“There’s been a lot of volatility between some of the various different automakers in terms of making adjustments to the incentive spend,” said Erich Merkle, Ford’s sales analyst.

Kelley Blue Book estimates that industry sales will top 1.4 million units, and an estimated 16.3 million seasonally adjusted annual rate.

“Sales also are supported by improved credit availability, low interest rates and attractive lease offers,” said Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book, in a statement.

U.S. consumers continue to favor crossovers and SUVs over cars. Sales of small crossovers and SUVs increased an estimated 22% in April to 179,000 compared with a 5.3% increase for mid-size sedans to and estimated 216,000.

Among foreign makers reporting, Toyota Motor Sales total sales were up 13% to 199,660 units.

“Sales momentum from March rolled into April pushing the industry to its best back-to-back monthly sales pace since fall of 2007,” said Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president and general manager. “For Toyota, truck sales continue to soar. Tundra is a highlight with double-digit gains as comfort, safety and technology of the all-new model remain a strong draw for consumers.”

Volkswagen’s sales slide continues, with an 8.4% decline for the month to 30,831. Only the Passat and Sportwagen posted small gains among VW’s volume models. Diesels accounted for 42% of Passat sales and 31% of all VW sales.

Hyundai tweeted that April sales rose 4.4% to 66,107 units, with strength in the Santa Fe crossovers and Sonata sedans.

The remainder of the industry will report April sales later today.

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