Auto Industry a 'Bright Spot' as Ford Sales Up 14%, GM Up 10% (Update 2)

Updated with GM sales totals for August.

DETROIT -- ( TheStreet) -- Automakers are reporting strong August sales as the auto industry remains a bright spot in a mediocre economy.

Ford ( F) said August sales gained 13%; GM ( GM) said sales rose 10% and Chrysler reported a 14% gain. Toyota ( TM) sales rose 46%.

"The auto industry has been a bright spot for the economy all year long and that will continue," GM economist Sue Yingzi Sue said Tuesday morning on a conference call with reporters. She said a revision by the Bureau of Economic Analysis enables a slightly higher estimate of 14.2 million to 14.3 million for the seasonally adjusted annualized sales rate.

Ford sales totaled 197,249, with retail sales up 19%. Sales of the Ford Escape compact utility vehicle rose 37% to 28,188. Fusion sales rose 21% to 21,690. F-Series sales rose 19% to 58,201. Lincoln sales rose 2% to 8,141, but Lincoln retail sales rose 21%. Fiesta sales fell 28% to 4,176.

Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. marketing, sales and service, said many customers visit the showroom to see the Fiesta, but end up buying a Focus.

GM said August sales totaled 240,520. Retail sales rose 11%, making August the best retail month of the year, while fleet sales rose 6%. All four GM brands posted higher total and retail sales, with Chevrolet up 11%, Cadillac up 11%, Buick up 12% and GMC up 4%.

Buick had its best retail sales month of the year and its best August since 2006. The brand is tracking to its best retail sale year since 2006.

Industry sales growth is being moved by pent-up demand, Sue said, noting, "People have been holding off new purchases for such a long time, since 2008 until now. Even though the economic news is very mediocre, very slow, and very moderate, we see improvement over all." In particular, job growth is continuing and consumer confidence is improving, she said.

GM said that four vehicles -- Cruze, Spark, Sonic and Volt -- set monthly sales records in August, helped by advertising during the Olympics. Cruze sold 25,975 units, Spark sold 2,630, Sonic sold 8,703 and Volt sold 2,831.

Chrysler, the first automaker to report Tuesday, said August sales rose 14% to 130,120 units, its best August total since 2007. Dodge brand sales rose 13% to 47,348, while Jeep brand sales rose 5% to 42,839. Sales of the Dodge Ram pickup truck, the group's best-selling vehicle, rose 19% to 25,215. Sales of the new Dodge Dart totaled 3,045. Volkswagen said August sales rose 63% to 41,011.

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