CHICAGO – U.S. auto sales looked set to continue their winning streak in April as Ford (IW 500/6) and Chrysler reported double digit growth Wednesday.

Hot new models and low interest rates lured customers into showrooms to replace aging vehicles they had held onto for far longer than usual as a result of the 2008 financial meltdown and subsequent deep economic downturn.

Total industry sales were forecast to surpass an annualized sales pace of 15 million vehicles for the sixth month in a row once all automakers have reported.

"We're forecasting the best April car sales since 2007, and that's consistent with the strong growth we've seen in the last several months," said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds.com senior analyst.

"Sales are almost back to pre-recession levels, so as long as automakers keep reporting their best sales in at least five years, we'll continue to be in good shape."

The automotive website forecast that sales will rise 10.4% from April 2012 while rival Kelly Blue Book was more optimistic, forecasting an 11.4% gain.

Ford managed to beat both their forecasts by reporting an 18% gain to 212,584, the No. 2 U.S. automaker's best April since 2007.

"We are working harder than ever to keep pace with record demand for our all-new, fuel-efficient Fusion and Escape -- with sales growth particularly strong on the coasts," Ford sales chief Ken Czubay said in a statement.

"F-Series pickups also continue to build on their momentum as the housing and construction industries rebound."

Chrysler also posted its best April results in six years as sales rose 11% to 156,698 vehicles. The No. 3 U.S. automaker has now posted 37 consecutive months of sales gains.

"Our sales last month were solid across the board with seven Chrysler Group vehicles recording their best April sales ever," Chrysler sales chief Reid Bigland said in a statement.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013