Detroit: Most carmakers reported big US sales gains in March.
But there were signs that some companies were working harder for sales by raising discounts on cars and selling more vehicles to rental car companies at lower profits.
Ford, Honda, Fiat Chrysler and Nissan all reported big sales increases, largely driven by SUVs and trucks. General Motors, which has been cutting back on sales to rental car companies, saw a slight sales increase and said its retail sales to individual buyers rose six per cent.
But Toyota sales fell nearly 3pc as rising SUV and truck sales couldn’t overcome car sales that fell almost 10pc. And Volkswagen, still mired in an emissions cheating scandal, saw its sales tumble 10.4pc.
Yet the overall sales increase, expected to be around 7pc, showed that Americans are still buying in big numbers, despite predictions by some analysts and dealers that sales have peaked.
Nissan sales were up 13pc, hitting a record for any month in its history. At Fiat Chrysler and Ford, sales were up 8pc, while they grew 0.9pc at General Motors. Honda reported a 9pc increase fuelled largely by the all-new Civic compact. Ford and Fiat Chrysler posted their best March numbers in a decade.
Vehicle valuation and automotive research company Kelley Blue Book says sales should come in around 1.66 million cars and trucks for the month, which could be the biggest number for any month since July 2005.
Relatively low petrol prices, sweet lease deals, low interest rates, easy-to-get loans and an ageing fleet of cars are driving the increase.
At Fiat Chrysler, car sales fell 34pc for the month, but truck and SUV sales rose 23pc. Sales of the top-selling car in the US, the Toyota Camry, fell 9pc in March to just under 37,000.