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Published: Wednesday, 9/5/2012

Vehicle sales jump in August

Major car makers report improvement from 2011

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Sales of the Chevrolet Cruze rose 19 percent from a year earlier. All four Chevrolet small cars set monthly sales records. Sales of the Chevrolet Cruze rose 19 percent from a year earlier. All four Chevrolet small cars set monthly sales records.
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Small-car sales and pent-up demand helped push the auto industry to a better-than-expected August, with every major car maker reporting sales gains over last year.

Analysts said Tuesday they expected August sales to be in the range of 1.28 million vehicles, which would make August the third-best month this year for new car sales by volume. Edmunds.com projected August’s seasonally adjusted annual rate at 14.5 million units, which was not only the best of the year, but the highest since Cash for Clunkers in August, 2009.

“Most automakers seem very pleased with their performances and I think generally we feel pretty good about sales,” Edmunds senior analyst Jessica Caldwell said.

All three Detroit automakers reported double-digit gains in August.

Chrysler Group LLC said its sales were up 14 percent over last year. Ford Motor Co. reported a 13 percent gain. General Motors Co., still the total volume leader by a wide margin, said its sales were up 10 percent.

Higher gas prices in August helped all four of Chevrolet’s small cars to reach monthly sales records. GM said it sold a record 2,630 Sparks, 2,831 Volts, 8,703 Sonics, and 25,975 Cruzes.

BEST SELLERS

The top-selling cars in the United States, with August sales totals and the percentage change from August, 2011:

Ford F-Series, 58,201 (+19%)

Chevy Silverado, 38,295 (+4%)

Toyota Camry, 36,720 (+21%)

Honda Accord, 34,848 (+89%)

Ford Escape, 28,188 (+37%)

Chevy Cruze, 25,975 (+19%)

Nissan Altima, 25,889 (+13%)

Ram Pickup, 25,215 (+19%)

Honda Civic, 24,897 (+106%)

Toyota Corolla, 24,311 (+48%)

Source: Autodata Corp.

The Cruze was GM’s top-selling car in August and its second-best-selling vehicle behind the Silverado pickup. Six-speedtransmissions for the compact sedan are built in Toledo at the GM Powertrain plant.

Chevrolet also found success locally. Joe Mehling, general manager of Dave White Chevrolet in Sylvania, said the dealership had its best month for retail sales since Cash for Clunkers in 2009.

“We didn’t have a slow week the whole month,” he said, noting interest in the Cruze, Sonic, and 2013 Malibu was particularly strong.

Still, while some buyers had gas prices at the tops of their minds, pump panic wasn’t widespread.

“To a certain extent, but we sold a lot of Silverados too,” he said. “Obviously someone buying a Silverado isn’t going to be gas conscious.”

Chrysler’s Toledo-made products also had a good month. The Jeep Wrangler set an August sales record with 13,293 units sold, up 3 percent from last year.

Sales of the Jeep Liberty, a vehicle Chrysler stopped building in mid-August, were up 15 percent over last year to 7,886.

 Chrysler said it was Liberty’s best August in six years. For the year, Liberty sales are up 30 percent.

Chrysler has now posted 29 consecutive months of year-over-year sales growth, something Reid Bigland, Chrysler’s head of U.S. sales, called an “iron man streak.”

“Our hard work over the past few years is starting to pay some dividends in our sales growth, quality awards, and profitability,” Mr. Bigland said in a statement. “Not to mention, an incredibly resilient U.S. new vehicle sales industry doesn’t hurt either.”

Chrysler also did well in the small-car segment.

 The new Dodge Dart sold well despite of its somewhat slow rollout, and the automaker set a monthly sales record with the Fiat 500 at 4,150.

Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. reported sales gains of 60 and 46 percent respectively, in large part because of their especially weak performances last year in the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake.

Volkswagen AG  sold  41,011 vehicles last in the United States last month, a 63 percent increase.over last year.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.



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