DETROIT -- U.S. light-vehicle sales, led by double-digit increases at Chrysler Group and Nissan Motor Corp., rose 6 percent to 1.28 million in October, matching forecasts, with crossovers and light trucks fueling much of the industry’s gains.
The seasonally adjusted annual sales rate, a broad measure of the industry’s health, hit 16.5 million, slightly above projections and up 7 percent from 15.4 million a year earlier.
The SAAR has now topped 16 million every month beginning with March. In August, the SAAR surged to 17.5 million, the highest since January 2006.
"The U.S. economy has steadily improved all year and now we are poised for a stronger expansion backed by an improved job market, higher consumer confidence and lower fuel prices," said Kurt McNeil, General Motors’ head of U.S. sales.
Chrysler Group’s U.S. sales rose 22 percent while Nissan group sales were up 13 percent.
Toyota Motor Sales sold 180,580 Toyota, Scion and Lexus models last month, an increase of 7 percent. The results reflected record October demand for the Toyota RAV4 and Highlander, strong Camry shipments, as well as robust SUV volume.
“October vehicle sales were the best for the month in 10 years as an improving economy and lower gas prices drove strong SUV sales,” Bill Fay, Toyota division general manager, said in a statement. Lexus volume rose for the 12th consecutive month.
Sales edged up 0.2 percent at General Motors, with Buick volume rising 7 percent and Chevrolet deliveries up 1 percent. Sales slipped 1 percent at GMC and 8 percent at Cadillac. The company’s retail volume dropped 2 percent, on lower consumer incentives, while fleet shipments rose 6 percent.
GM’s car deliveries slipped 1 percent while truck volume rose 6 percent. GM said its crossover deliveries declined 8 percent on the discontinuation of the Chevrolet Captiva Sport which has been sold to only rental and fleet operators.
At Ford Motor Co., volume declined 2 percent as the company retools U.S. plants to build the redesigned F-150 pickup. The F series is Ford’s top-selling nameplate. Sales fell 3 percent at the Ford division but climbed 25 percent at Lincoln.
55 consecutive monthly gains
Chrysler Group’s U.S. sales continue to be buttressed by strong demand for the Jeep lineup and Ram pickups. The latest results extended the company’s streak of year-on-year U.S. sales increases to 55 consecutive months.
Volume surged 52 percent at Jeep and 36 percent at Ram, with Ram pickup deliveries advancing 33 percent to nearly 40,000.
Sales rose 1 percent at Fiat and 18 percent at Chrysler Division but slipped 8 percent at Dodge. Overall, Fiat Chrysler’s light-truck deliveries rose 28 percent and car demand edged up 4 percent.
"Chrysler is on a streak of growth that’s virtually unheard of for American auto manufacturers," Edmunds.com senior analyst Jessica Caldwell said. "The company’s renewed focus on SUVs comes at a perfect time when gas prices are plummeting and shoppers are falling back in love with large vehicles."
The strategy is undeniably successful, she added, but it’s not invincible.
"If there is a spike in gas prices, Chrysler’s weak small-car lineup may not be able to fully absorb the blow," Caldwell said.
Aided by strong crossover and small-car demand, sales at the Nissan division rose 15 percent to 94,072 -- an October record -- but volume slipped 1 percent at Infiniti, the company said today.
Overall, Nissan group’s car deliveries rose 15 percent and light-truck volume climbed 11 percent. Demand for the Nissan Rogue compact crossover increased 14 percent while sales of the Murano midsize crossover jumped 38 percent.
Nissan division’s U.S. sales have now set records in 13 consecutive months.
Fred Diaz, senior vice president for Nissan U.S. sales & marketing and operations, credited “high consumer confidence and low gas prices” for the company’s results and predicted those factors “will continue to boost auto sales for the last two months of 2014.”
Nissan said deliveries of the Versa subcompact and Leaf electric vehicle each rose 29 percent, and Sentra compact volume jumped 56 percent.
The Leaf set an October sales record of 2,589. Nissan said the Leaf has set a record for most U.S. sales in a year by an EV at 24,411 -- with two months to go.