April's auto sales rate was the lowest since October, but the parade of high-margin pickups and SUVs rolling off dealership lots gave the Detroit 3 double-digit increases for the month, hefty profits and a spike in market share.
Detroit's share of 46.9 percent was the highest since September 2011, when the Japanese were dealing with earthquake-related production problems. And economic indicators suggest the Detroit 3 will see more gains in the months ahead.
Auto executives and analysts expect the modest yet steady rise in the housing market to continue driving pickup sales. In particular, small businesses have become more comfortable making big purchases.
"We have strong confidence the housing market is going to continue to grow and improve," Joe Hinrichs, Ford's president of the Americas, told Automotive News last week, when Ford announced plans to add 900 jobs at its plant in Kansas City, Mo., to build more F-150s.
Sales of full-sized pickups rose 27 percent in April and are up 20 percent for the year.
At the same time, consumers are looking more favorably on larger SUVs again, as automakers significantly improve fuel economy and gasoline prices ease.
All of that is an ideal combination for the Detroit 3, which finally offer plenty of competitive car models again but would still rather sell their big, brawny -- and enormously lucrative -- trucks.
General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group all posted double-digit increases in April. They added more than 2 points of combined market share at the expense of Toyota Motor Sales, American Honda Motor Co. and Hyundai-Kia Automotive, among others.
In contrast, Toyota's share slid to 13.7 percent, the lowest since June 2012, and the Toyota Camry sedan was outsold by a competing mid-sized model for the second straight month. In April the Camry was topped by the Honda Accord; in March it was the Nissan Altima.
Another loser was Volkswagen Group of America -- off 3 percent in April, ending a 31-month streak of monthly increases.