AUGUST AUTO SALES UP, INCENTIVES DOWN Automobile sales in August were up 7.5% from the previous year and up 1.2% from July, surprising analysts who had predicted sluggish results. The increase came despite a struggling economy, low consumer confidence and a hurricane. “Consumers are getting used to making these big-ticket item purchase decisions in an everlasting, c h a o t i c , u n c e r t a i n e c o n o m i c environment,” said Jesse Toprak, VP at TrueCar.com, told the New York Times. “We’re seeing more and more consumers becoming relatively comfortable in pulling the trigger when they don’t have all the answers.” Hurricane Irene, which pummeled the East Coast from the Carolinas to Vermont, reduced overall demand in the U.S. by 3% for August, estimates Paul Taylor, chief economist at the National Automobile Dealers Association. August sales came despite a decline in incentives for the month. Those incentives were off by 6% from the year earlier to an average $2,615 per vehicle. General Motors cut its incentives by 11% and it still saw an 18% rise in sales during August. "There is still a lot of pent-up demand," said Don Johnson, GM’s vice president of U.S. sales operations. "Consumers are being cautious, but they are not out of the market. We think that will continue the rest of the year." Ford’s incentives were down by 9.1% year-over-year but its sales were up 11%. That company’s sales were buoyed by demand for its fuel efficient models. Chrysler had a fantastic month--sales rose by 30.6%. It was Ford’s best month since 2007. The company cut its incentives by 7% for August, though to a still high average $3,457. Toyota was one of the few automakers to increase its i n c e n t i v e s - - b y 1 9 % - - b u t inventory problems still ate into its monthly sales; they fell by 12%. Toyota is counting on the new Camry, to be launched next month, to bring it back to previous sales levels. Lack of inventory of some of its most popular models also deflated sales for Honda, which was down 24% for the month. That company’s incentives were trimmed by 2.1%.