Ford Sales Flat; GM Sales Rise 1.5% (Update 1)

Updated with GM and Toyota results and Ford call details.

DETROIT -- ( TheStreet) -- Ford ( F) said its September sales were even with last year, while GM ( GM) sales rose 1.5% and Toyota ( TM) sales rose 41.5%.

On the Ford sales call, analyst Eric Merkle said overall industry sales are on track to rise about 12% in September, one more sign that the auto industry remains a bright spot in the economy.

Ford was hurt by a 37% decline in sales of the Fusion, its best-selling car, as it cleared out 2012 Fusions in advance of the arrival of the eagerly awaited 2013 model. Fusion sales totaled 12,300.

"We're right on plan as our Fusions sell down and it gets to the bottom of the inventory," said Ken Czubay, vice president for U.S. marketing, sales and service on the sales call. "It was inventory depletion on the 12s and inventory buildup on the 13s. We anticipate (Fusion) to take off in the first 10 days of this month."

GM said its September sales total of 210,245 vehicles marked the best September total since 2008. New products helped drive a 29% increase in passenger car sales, the automaker said. Cruze sales rose 42.5% to 25,787. Volt sales rose 294% to 2,851. The new Cadillac XTS sold 2,506 units.

"Passenger cars have been the launch point for a broad and deep GM product offensive," said Kurt McNeil, vice president of U.S. sales operations, in a prepared statement. "Auto sales will continue to be a bright spot for the U.S. economy, which is particularly good news for GM as we walk into an even stronger cadence of new products in 2013 and 2014."

Ford said it sold 174,976 vehicles in September, unchanged from a year ago. Retail sales rose 4%. Small-car sales totaled 24,628, up 73% from a year earlier. Sales of the F-Series, the best-selling U.S. vehicle, rose 1% to 55,077, the best September for F-Series since 2007 and the 14th consecutive month of sales gains for the F-Series. Escape sales rose 14.5% to 23,148. Lincoln sales fell 3.1% to 6,802.

Chrysler said sales rose 12% to 142,041, its best September sales total since 2007. The Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram Truck and Fiat brands all posted year-over-year sales gains in September. Sales of the Ram pickup truck, the best-selling Chrysler vehicle, rose 6% to 25,973. Dodge sales rose 18% to 47,356, with sales of the new Dart totaling 5,235 while Charger sales fell 14% to 5,863.

"Going forward with our current product line-up, record low interest rates and a stable U.S. economy, we remain optimistic about the health of the U.S. new vehicle sales industry and our position in it," said Reid Bigland, head of U.S. sales and Dodge brand CEO, in a prepared statement.

Volkswagen said its sales rose 34% to 36,663, its best September since 1972. Toyota will report its sales breakdown later in the day.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

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