Six of the top seven automakers reported year-to-year sales gains on
Thursday, but only four topped analysts' expectations.
The industry delivered 1.39 million cars in April, up 8 percent from
the previous year, according to research firm Autodata Corp.
Tapping consumer demand that began to increase as the bad weather
broke in late March, General Motors Co <GM.N>, Toyota Motor Corp
<7203.T>, Nissan Motor Co <7201.T> and Hyundai Motor Co <005380.KS>
beat expectations, with Toyota and Nissan both posting double-digit
Chrysler Group LLC, a unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles <FIA.MI>,
also registered a double-digit sales gain in April, but narrowly
missed expectations, as did Ford Motor Co <F.N> whose April sales
slipped 1.0 percent. Honda Motor Co <7267.T>, up 1 percent, also
"Sales momentum from March rolled into April, pushing the industry
to its best back-to-back monthly sales pace since the fall of 2007,"
said Bill Fay, general manager of Toyota brand.
Toyota group sales, including the Lexus and Scion brands, totaled
199,660, up 13 percent. Nissan sales, including Infiniti, were a
record 103,934, up 18 percent. Honda sales, including Acura, were
Chrysler said U.S. auto sales rose 14 percent to 178,652. GM said
sales increased 7.0 percent to 254,076. Ford sales fell to 211,126.
Combined Hyundai and Kia sales in April climbed 8 percent to
April was seen as a second strong month in a row, after the cold and
snowy weather in January and February dampened car buyers'
"The economy continues to strengthen," said Kurt McNeil, head of
GM's U.S. sales operations. "Retail demand was steady in April, and
truck sales and transaction prices were especially strong."
The industry sold cars at an annual rate of 16.04 million in April,
according to Autodata. Economists polled earlier by Reuters expected
the industry's annual sales rate in April to come in at 16.2 million
vehicles, which would be slightly slower than March.
Negative publicity over GM's recall earlier this year of 2.6 million
vehicles linked to 13 deaths does not appear to have had a
significant impact on the company's image or the appeal of its
brands to U.S. consumers, said Larry Dominique, executive vice
president at industry researcher TrueCar.
The GM recall, for which the automaker took a $1.3-billion writedown
in the first quarter, is "almost a bigger industry story than a
consumer story," Dominique said.
[to top of second column]
GM BRANDS POST INCREASES
All four of GM's U.S. brands reported year-to-year increases in
April. Chevrolet and Cadillac were each up 5.0 percent, Buick jumped
12 percent, and GMC rose 13 percent.
Sales at both the Ford and Lincoln brands declined in April — Ford
down 0.3 percent and Lincoln off 11 percent.
Sales at Chrysler's Jeep line, which is to be the primary global
brand of a merged Fiat and Chrysler expected later this year, rose
52 percent in April from a year earlier.
Jeep U.S. sales of 205,593 in the first four months of the year were
46 percent higher than a year earlier. Chrysler Chief Executive
Officer Sergio Marchionne has set a target of 1 million sales
globally for Jeep for the year.
Sales of large pickups remained strong in April, driven by hefty
discounts from manufacturers and dealers.
Chrysler's Ram truck sales rose 17 percent to 36,674. Ford's
best-selling F-series pickup climbed 7.0 percent to 63,387, the best
April tally since 2006. GM's Chevrolet Silverado jumped 9 percent to
Two of the best-selling green cars in the country, the Nissan Leaf
and the Chevrolet Volt, have had mixed results this year, although
sales for both picked up in April.
The battery-powered Leaf saw sales rise 8 percent to 2,088, with
year-to-date sales up 33 percent to 7,272. Sales of the Volt
gasoline-electric hybrid were up 19 percent in April to 1,548, but
year-to-date sales are off 7 percent to 5,154.
Sales among smaller manufacturers were mixed. Volkswagen AG <VOWG_p.DE>,
whose brands include Audi and Porsche, reported sales down 1 percent
(Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Jeffrey Benkoe, Andrew Hay and Cynthia
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