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DETROIT — Americans want new cars and trucks, and they’re not letting higher gas prices or political dysfunction stand in their way.
New car and truck sales were up 4 percent in February as rising home construction and cheap financing kept the U.S. auto recovery on track. While the pace of growth is slowing, industry analysts expect more gains in the coming months.
February sales hit an annualized rate of 15.4 million cars and trucks. That’s still short of the recent peak of close to 17 million in 2005, but it’s quite healthy compared with the anemic 10.4 million recorded during the recession in 2009.
General Motors Co.’s sales rose 7 percent to their highest February level since 2008. Chevrolet Silverado pickup sales jumped 29 percent, which helped make up for faltering sales of cars such as the Chevrolet Malibu and Cruze.
Ford Motor Co.’s sales increased 9 percent. Ford reported a 15-percent gain for its F-Series pickups, which are the best-selling vehicles in the United States. The company also posted record February totals for the Escape SUV and Fusion sedan.
Chrysler Group LLC’s sales were up 4 percent over a year ago, a much slower pace than the 21 percent jump it saw in 2012. Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne has warned first-quarter sales would decline because the company halted production of the Toledo-built Jeep Liberty midsize SUV last summer as it prepares to build a replacement model.
The new Jeep Cherokee, which will be built in Toledo, is expected to hit showrooms in the summer. In the meantime, the Dodge Avenger and Charger sedans were strong sellers. The Toledo-built Jeep Wrangler was up 8 percent from last year, setting a sales record for the month of February.
Toyota Motor Corp.’s sales were up just over 4 percent, with strong sales of the RAV4 small SUV and Avalon large sedan. Despite higher gas prices, sales of the Prius hybrid were down 13.5 percent.
Honda Motor Co. sales fell 2 percent. Sales of the new Accord jumped 35 percent, but that couldn’t offset big declines for the CR-V crossover and Civic small car.
Nissan Motor Co.’s sales were down 7 percent, but sales of the new Pathfinder SUV more than doubled, and sales of the Leaf electric car rose 37 percent after the company dropped the price.
Volkswagen AG’s sales were up 3 percent. Sales of the new Beetle nearly tripled.
Hyundai Motor Co.’s sales were up 2 percent, led by a 64 percent increase for the new Santa Fe crossover.