U.S. Auto Sales Post Gains Despite Market Turmoil

Pent up demand should continue slow growth for the year.

Market turmoil failed to put the brakes on auto sales in August, as the Big Three -- General Motors, Chrysler and Ford -- all posted gains.

"Consumers are being cautious and appropriately so, but they are not retrenching," said Don Johnson, vice president for GM U.S. sales. GM is "cautiously optimistic that we'll see U.S. economic growth improve in the months ahead," Johnson said, noting that while consumer confidence has taken a hit in recent weeks, retail sales actually improved.

Strong retail sales helped GM boost deliveries 18% in August to 218,479 vehicles last month and lower-margin fleet sales also posted gains, the automaker said. GM said it is "closely monitoring consumer sentiment and other economic indicators" but has not changed its forecast for overall 2011 industry sales, which it expects to be in the "low end" of the 13-13.5 million vehicle range.

"We've got a historically very low industry and still a lot of pent-up demand up there," Johnson said. "All indications are to us that the industry is going to slowly grow this year."

Chrysler posted its best August since 2007 as sales rose 31% to 130,119 vehicles.

"In spite of a volatile market, Chrysler managed to significantly outperform the industry again in August," said Reid Bigland, head of Chrysler's US sales, said in a statement. "Last month also represented our 17th consecutive month of year-over-year sales growth, and on the back of our 16 all-new or significantly-refreshed products I see that trend easily continuing into the fall."

Ford showed more modest sales gains of just 11% to 175,220 vehicles as it announced plans to boost fourth quarter production 9% from 2010's depressed levels.

"Ford's fuel-efficient cars, crossovers and trucks continue winning over consumers in the marketplace," said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president for US sales.

JD Power forecasts that August sales will slip to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 11.9 million vehicles, down from 12.2 million in July.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011

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