Automakers and dealers started May sales with slightly higher than normal supplies as slow-selling passenger cars began to stack up on some dealership lots.
Roomy and fuel-efficient crossovers, pickups, vans and SUVs ran car sales off U.S. roads in April. Trucks accounted for 59.3 percent of light vehicles sold in April - the highest level ever for the month.
Through three months, fleet volume for the seven largest auto groups is up 14 percent despite General Motors' strategy of reducing rental fleet business to boost residual values and brand image.
After analysts had forecast annualized selling rates above 17 million for an 11th straight month, March dealer activity seemed to sag after an early Easter holiday. March sales gained 3.1 percent for a SAAR of 16.6 million.
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