DETROIT -- Chrysler Group's 7 percent sales increase in August bucked the industry's 21 percent tumble.
There are several reasons Chrysler was able to enjoy its fifth straight month of year-over-year sales increases.
First, last August was terrible. Jesse Toprak, analyst for TrueCar.com, says: "Last August, when cash for clunkers was at its peak, Chrysler had the fewest eligible vehicles of any manufacturer." So its sales last August "were abysmal."
Also, fleet sales were strong this August. Thirty-six percent of Chrysler's sales last month were to fleets, or about 36,000 of Chrysler's 99,611 units for the month, according to Automotive News estimates. Chrysler's reliance on fleet sales, though still fairly high, dropped from 39 percent in the January-July period.
General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. also reduced their reliance on fleets in August. Fleet sales accounted for 28 percent of GM's August sales, down from 31 percent in the January-July period, and for 26 percent of Ford's, down from 35 percent. All three automakers had said fleet sales would decline in the second half.
Toprak says Chrysler also is beginning to see some payoff from new products, along with decent performance from the existing lineup.
"The new Grand Cherokee is having initial success," he says. "The Wrangler continues to do well. Some of their halo cars like Charger and Challenger are doing decent."