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GM Sales Rev Up

But Ford sustains a 14% sales plunge for August.
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Updated from 2:55 p.m. EDT

August sales results in the U.S. for Detroit's automakers were mixed, with

General Motors


reporting an unexpected increase and



posting a 14% drop.

GM said it sold 385,529 cars and trucks for the month, a 6.1% increase from the 363,521 vehicles it sold last year.

The automaker's car sales fell 7.8% to 144,516 vehicles. Light-truck sales, however, jumped 16.5% due to strong demand for the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups.

Burnham Securities analyst David Healy said he was expecting GM to post a decline in line with its competitors, but he hadn't counted on an uptick in the company's sales to rental companies. GM and Ford have been attempting all year to cut back on sales to rental firms because they represent lower-margin business.

"The truck sales were good because GM got up to speed with some of the promotions being offered elsewhere in the industry, but they're still cutting productions, signaling that they have their share of worries about the rest of the year," says Healy. "This was a decent performance for GM, but the industry is still trending lower."

GM's results in the U.S. managed to outshine those from


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, which is fast closing in on the company as the world's biggest automaker. Toyota, blaming weak consumer confidence amid the credit crunch, reported a 2.8% decline in August U.S. sales to 233,471 vehicles.

Even with the decline, though, Toyota surpassed Ford to become the No. 2 U.S. vehicle seller for the month. Ford sold 218,332 vehicles during August, down from the 255,112 vehicles it sold in the same month last year. Sales to daily rental companies were down 44%, while sales to retail customers declined by 13%.

In reporting its dismal performance, Ford highlighted brisk sales of its Ford, Lincoln and Mercury crossover models, where sales were up 82% in August and up 48% so far for the year.

"We are encouraged by consumers' response to our new products," said the company in a press release. "Demand for our new crossovers continues to grow despite challenging economic conditions."

Still, Ford's overall truck sales fell 2.4% to 153,468 units, with its flagship F-Series pickup posting a 9.9% decline. Car sales tumbled 33.7% to 64,864 units amid the decrease in sales to rental-car companies.

At Ford's stable of luxury brands, Land Rover sales were up 32.2%, while Jaguar and Volvo both logged double-digit declines. The company has said it is considering the sale of the brands, which comprise its Premium Automotive Group.

Ford also said it plans to produce 640,000 vehicles during the fourth quarter, up 6% from the same period a year ago.

For its part, GM said it plans to build about 1 million light vehicles in the fourth quarter. GM cut its third-quarter production forecast by 2% to 1.05 million vehicles.

Chrysler, the other member of Detroit's so-called Big Three, reported a 6% decline in August sales to 168,203 units. German auto giant



recently sold a majority stake in Chrysler to private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Management.

Shares of GM recently were up $1.21, or 3.9%, to $31.95. Ford shares were up 20 cents, or 2.6%, to $8.01.