U.S. Auto Sales Up 28.5%

Total industry sales rose 28.5% to 958,966 vehicles.

Automakers posted significant gains in September U.S. auto sales from depressed 2009 levels with Chrysler and Ford sharply outperforming their rivals, industry data showed Oct. 1.

While the industry has been showing strong signs of recovery and consistent gains so far this year, September's results were skewed by the fact that sales were particularly weak a year ago following the end of the government-financed Cash-for-Clunkers incentive program.

Total industry sales rose 28.5% to 958,966 vehicles, or a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 11.76 million vehicles compared with 9.38 million in September 2009, according to Autodata.

Total U.S. auto sales for the year-to-date were up 10.3% at 7.8 million vehicles.

Chrysler hailed its results, the sixth-consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains, as a sign of its recovery more than a year after it emerged from a government-backed restructuring under bankruptcy protection.

"We will continue to build sales momentum this fall as a slate of new product begins arriving in our dealerships," said Fred Diaz, lead executive for US sales. "Consumers soon will be able to see more of our all-new and significantly-refreshed vehicles in our dealerships."

Total sales rose 61% to 100,077 vehicles for September and were up 15% for the first nine months of the year at 820,220 vehicles.

Chrysler's market share rose 2.1 points to 10.4% in September and is up 0.3 points so far this year at 9.%, according to Autodata.

Chrysler remains vulnerable, however, to another spike in fuel prices, cautioned Edmunds.com analyst Ivan Drury, because 71% of its sales are trucks.

"Chrysler is benefiting from stable gas prices and the highly visible launch of the redesigned Grand Cherokee," Drury said. "As long as consumers are not worried about high fuel costs Chrysler should be able to maintain a decent sales pace."

Ford, the only big U.S. automaker to survive the economic crisis without government help, said it was on track to gain market share for the second year in a row.

Ford's share for the year to date is up 1.5 points at 16.7%, giving it a good chance of regaining the number two spot from Toyota, which has seen its share fall 1.4 points to 15.2% so far this year.

"The key to our success in the U.S. market is the relentless cadence of new vehicle, powertrain and technology introductions," said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president for U.S. marketing, sales and service. "Every high-quality, fuel-efficient new vehicle provides Ford and its dealers with an opportunity to reach new customers and build a stronger foundation for future growth."

Ford's sales for September rose 46% to 160,873 vehicles and were up 20.9% for the year to date at 1.2 million vehicles.

GM expressed satisfaction with its modest sales gain of 10.5% in September to 173,155 vehicles and 5.9% for the first nine months of the year at 1.6 million.

Sales of GM's remaining "core" brands rose 22%, and the automaker noted that its sales were 79,948 units higher so far this year with four brands that what it posted in the same period of 2009 with eight brands.

However, GM's share continues to slide -- down 2.8 points in September at 18% and 0.6 points for the year-to-date at 19%, according to Autodata.

"September's results are a continuation of positive momentum for our four brands and demonstrate that our plan is working," said Don Johnson, vice president for the U.S. sales operations.

"We're hitting our forecast, the industry is trending as we forecast, so we don't see any substantial changes in our strategy," he said in a conference call.

Toyota, which continues to work to rebuild its once-stellar reputation after a series of mass safety recalls, saw sales rise a modest 16.8% to 147,162 vehicles in September and 1.6% to 1.3 million vehicles for the year.

Honda sales rose 26% to 97,361 vehicles in September while year-to-date sales were up just 3.7% at 912,436.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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