DETROIT -- Spurred by General Motors and the Chrysler group, new-car and light-truck sales got back on track in September after an undistinguished August.
The September total of 1,437,145 was up a satisfying 10.3 percent over last year's 1,303,520. Compared with August, sales rose only a scant 7,531 units, or about one-half of 1 percent, but it was enough to make September a good month.
August sales were down 12.4 percent from a strong month in 2003. September sales brought the year-to-date total to 12,835,667, a solid 1.3 percent above last year's 12,676,066. At the end of August, this year's sales were only 25,979, or 0.2 percent, ahead of last year's.
September also boosted the seasonally adjusted selling rate to 18.0, an unrealistically high number. It had slipped to 16.0 million in August.
General Motors rated a star on its forehead for September, just as it wore a dunce cap in August. GM sales scooted up 24.9 percent over last September. Chevrolet and GMC did the work. Chevrolet car sales (that's right, CAR sales) were up 39.4 percent, and truck sales jumped 42.8 percent. GMC sales were up 38.5 percent in September.
The Chrysler group posted a 14.7 percent gain, and the Chrysler brand was the workhorse. And, strangely, cars were the big winners for the Chrysler badge with an advance of 86.2 percent. As usual, the Chrysler 300 made the biggest gain, but the Crossfire, PT Cruiser and Sebring also were up smartly.
Ford Motor Co. continued to struggle, with sales off 4.2 percent in September. Put the blame on Ford Division car sales, which plunged 23.5 percent from last year. At 43,702 for September, the division's car deliveries were a bit lower than in August and were down 13,441 from last year.
On the import side, six manufacturers reported sales gains of 10 percent or more in September: BMW North America, 31.2 percent; Suzuki, 29.5; Subaru, 17.8; Nissan North America, 15.6; Toyota Motor Sales, 14.9, and Hyundai Group, 12.6.
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