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Chrysler Sales Rise 14 Pct On Demand For Pickups

TOM KRISHER

DETROIT (AP) â¿¿ Strong pickup demand fueled a big jump in U.S. auto sales last month.

GM's August U.S. sales rose 10 percent compared with a year earlier, while Ford's rose 13 percent and Chrysler's 14 percent.

Most automakers reported strong gains as Americans flowed into dealer showrooms, drawn by model-year closeouts, low-interest financing and appealing new models. Analysts expect overall sales to rise around 20 percent when companies finish reported later Tuesday.

Pickups, traditionally the top sellers in the U.S., drove much of the business, thanks to a recovering housing market. Sales of Ford's F-Series trucks rose 19 percent, while Chrysler's Ram jumped by the same. GM's pickups, the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, among the oldest trucks in the market, saw a 6-percent sales increase.

Asian companies and Germany's Volkswagen did well in car sales.

The overall increase was due mainly to pent-up demand as consumers and businesses were forced to replace aging cars and pickup trucks, said Yingzi Su, GM's senior economist. The average age of a vehicle on U.S. road is approaching 11 years.

"People have been holding off new purchases for such a long time, since 2008 to now," she said, adding that auto sales are seeing overall improvements even though the economy is growing slowly.

August sales could hit more than 1.2 million vehicles, up around 20 percent from a year earlier, analysts predict. The annual pace could reach 14.6 million units, among the best months of the year.

Toyota now has a full inventory of new cars at dealers and continued its recovery from bad sales last year. Sales grew almost 46 percent.

Honda, which like Toyota saw its factories hobbled by the earthquake in Japan last year, reported a 60 percent increase led by the Civic compact, CR-V small SUV and the Accord midsize sedan. Kia sales rose 21.5 percent from a year earlier, while Hyundai's rose only 4 percent over strong numbers from August of 2011.

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