AUGUST U.S. AUTO SALES: GM, Ford, Chrysler post double-digit U.S. sales gains

DETROIT — The Detroit 3 posted double-digit U.S. sales gains in August in the face of forecasts that industry demand would cool.

General Motors had an 18 percent gain and Ford Motor Co. was up 11 percent — their biggest jumps since April. Chrysler Group, with a 28 percent rise, now has had increases of 20 percent or more in six of the year’s first eight months.

Volkswagen brand was up 10 percent and Nissan North America rose 19 percent, despite a drop at Infiniti.

American Honda and Toyota Motor Sales, which have dragged down the industry since May because of vehicle shortages stemming from the March earthquake in Japan, have yet to report. Subaru, which has also been crimped by tight supplies, posted a 6 percent decline, its fourth straight monthly drop.

Analysts said August, like the past few months, would fall short of the sales pace set at the start of the year. They cited a decline in consumer confidence and dimming prospects for strong economic growth. And Hurricane Irene paralyzed most of the Eastern seaboard last weekend, leaving flooding and power outages in its wake.

‘Pent-up demand’

“There is still a lot of pent-up demand,” said Don Johnson, GM’s vice president of U.S. sales operations, in a conference call today. “Consumers are being cautious, but they are not out of the market. We think that will continue the rest of the year.”

GMC led GM brands with a 41 percent jump over August 2010. Chevrolet rose 16 percent and Buick was up 12 percent. Cadillac was up 4 percent after three consecutive monthly declines.

GM said the Chevrolet Cruze topped 20,000 sales for the fifth straight month. The new entry was helped by lingering shortages of small cars at Toyota and Honda.

Chrysler continued to benefit from the performance of its Jeep brand, which was up 58 percent in August and is up 50 percent for the year. Chrysler ran a no-payments-for-90-days promotion for some buyers of 2011 and 2012 Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram models during the month.

Ford-brand sales rose 16 percent. Lincoln, up 25 percent, rose for the third straight month following six straight months of decline.

Prior to today’s reports, August sales were projected to run at a 12.1 million seasonally adjusted annual rate, according to the average estimate of 14 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. The pace averaged above 13 million through April of this year and dropped below 12 million in May and June before rising to 12.2 million in July.

“With the economic woes, summer vacations and Hurricane Irene taking center stage, August may be a lost month for vehicle sales,” said Jeff Schuster, executive director of global forecasting at J.D. Power and Associates, in a statement yesterday.

J.D. Power’s SAAR forecast for July was 11.9 million units, saying demand dropped sharply in the second half of the month as consumers waited for bargains and bad weather took over.

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