U.S. light-vehicle sales jumped 20 percent in August, led by big surges at restocked Honda and Toyota and double-digit gains for most other major automakers.
American Honda Motor Co. sales soared 60 percent and Toyota Motor Sales was up 46 percent as the two Japanese automakers hardest hit by quake-related product shortages a year ago continued their rebound.
The Detroit 3 and Hyundai-Kia all posted August gains of 10 to 14 percent. Nissan North America volume rose 8 percent. Buoyed by 10,000 additional U.S.-built Passats in the mix, sales jumped 48 percent at Volkswagen Group of America.
August's 14.5 million annual selling rate fractionally exceeded that of February, the year's previous high point, and was the best since the cash-for-clunkers frenzy in August 2009. And on a unit basis, last month's 1,285,292 sales were the best August since 2007.
Citing expanded credit availability, fresh products and a better economy, industry executives expect sales to continue gaining strength from May's 13.9 million selling rate.
Kurt McNeil, General Motors' vice president of sales operations, said positive jobs and housing "helped overall sentiment" in August auto volume.
"Autos have been a bright spot for the economy all year long, and we see that trend continuing," he said.
Toyota Division General Manager Bill Fay said replacement purchases drove August results, "but we just had the best retail market in a year and a half, so we'll hopefully see a few more 'want' buyers."
Jeff Schuster, LMC Automotive's top forecaster, said more credit enabled "the resilience of the consumer" to overcome a slow economic recovery. He said: "Those who are employed are now able to own or lease a new car."