Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

May 2, 2014

Pickups, small SUVs lead April sales rebound

DETROIT — U.S. car buyers came out of hibernation in April to spend on pickup trucks and SUVs, fueling an auto sales rebound that analysts expect to last the rest of the year.

Total sales grew to just under 1.4 million cars and trucks, up about 8 percent from a year ago. Sales ran at an annual rate of just over 16 million, according to Autodata Corp.

Nissan led the way with an 18.3 percent increase over a year ago, with sales of the redesigned Rogue small SUV up almost 27 percent. Chrysler posted a 14 percent gain, boosted by a big jump in sales of Jeep SUVs. Both companies reported record April sales. Toyota sales grew by 13 percent, led by a double-digit gain in truck sales.

General Motors, which has suffered through bad publicity from a string of embarrassing safety recalls, posted a 7 percent gain, led by the Buick Encore small SUV and the Chevy Silverado pickup truck. And Hyundai sales rose a little more than 4 percent on strong SUV sales.

But there were some soft spots.

Honda sales grew only 1 percent, while Ford sales fell by a point. Ford’s car sales sputtered, although sales of its F-Series pickup, the best-selling vehicle in the U.S., rose 7.4 percent. Sales at Volkswagen dropped 8.4 percent.

U.S. consumers bought 15.6 million new cars and trucks in 2013. The industry entered 2014 with expectations of selling more than 16 million cars for the first time since 2007. But sales dropped 3 percent in January and were flat in February. March started slowly, but finished with a flourish.

“Sales momentum from March rolled into April, pushing the industry to its best back-to-back monthly sales pace since fall of 2007,” Toyota vice president Bill Fay said in a statement.

Analysts expect that April’s sales pace was slightly slower than the rate in March, but should still translate into full-year sales of more than 16 million cars and trucks.

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