Ford, GM, Chrysler Report March Sales Gains

DETROIT ( TheStreet) -- Ford ( F) said sales in March rose 5.7%, while GM ( F) sales gained 6.4% and Chrysler reported a 5% increase.

March domestic light-vehicle sales, which are being reported Tuesday, are expected to reach a five-year high, as auto sales continue to be an accurate indicator of a strengthening economy.

Ford said its sales were the best since May 2007 as Fusion (pictured) and Escape both set all-time monthly sales records in March.

"We are working harder than ever to keep pace with demand for these fuel-efficient vehicles," said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. marketing, sales and service, in a prepared statement. Fusion sales totaled 30,284, while Escape sales rose 28% to 28,934. Explorer sales rose 33% to 17,509. Ford will add Fusion capacity at its Flat Rock, Mich., plant in the fall.

Meanwhile, the industry's full-size pickup sales are expected to rise 15%. "Full-size pickup demand continues gaining momentum, outperforming the industry for the third consecutive month," Czubay said. F-Series sales rose 16% to 67,513.

Ford estimated the industry's March total vehicle sales rose about 4%, with a seasonally adjusted annual sales rate for light vehicles of about 15.5 million. Small cars accounted for 23% of sales, up from 22% in February, which Ford attributed to a seasonal variation.

Full-size pickups accounted for 11.6% of March sales, lower than 12.6% in February, but more than 10.5% in March 2012, Ford said.

GM said its sales totaled 245,950 as Cadillac sales gained 49.5% to 15,751. Cadillac ATS sold 3,587 units. Buick sales rose 37% to 18,007. Chevrolet sales rose just 0.5%. Malibu sales fell 22% to 18,539. Volt sales fell 35% to 1,478. Silverado sales rose 8.4% to 39,561.

"GM delivered its best March sales in five years thanks to a strengthening economy and new products, and we are expecting our third consecutive increase in market share versus last year," said Kurt McNeil, vice president of U.S. sales operations, in a prepared statement. "Sales of smaller cars have been robust for some time. Trucks have improved in lockstep with the housing market and the strength of the crossover market signals that America's families are more confident about their financial health."

Chrysler said its March sales gained 5% to 171,606 units, its best monthly sales since December 2007. March was the 36th consecutive month of sales gains for Chrysler, eclipsing the company's previous record of 35 consecutive months of sales gains from February 1992 to December 1994.

Dodge Ram sales gained 25% to 33,831 units, the best month ever, while sales of the new Dodge Dart totaled 8,091 units. Chrysler brand sales fell 2% as sales of the Chrysler 300 fell 22% to 5,686.

"With our 5% sales increase in March, Chrysler Group has now achieved year-over-year sales gains in every month for the past three years," said Reid Bigland, head of U.S. sales, in a prepared statement. "Furthermore, in spite of limited inventory last month on some of our most popular models, we also managed to record our strongest monthly sales since December 2007." Chrysler was rolling out three new products during the quarter including the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee.

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

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Ted Reed

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