Volkswagen and Toyota boast big September sales gains

Workers process finished Volkswagen Touran and Tiguan cars at the Volkswagen factory on March 7, 2012 in Wolfsburg, Germany. In 2011 Volkswagen achieved record results, producing more than 8 million cars worldwide. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

(MoneyWatch) Toyota and Volkswagen continued big 2012 sales increases in September, with Toyota up 41 percent over a year earlier and Volkswagen rising 34 percent.

Toyota's gains result partly from comparisons with poor numbers in September 2011, when inventory was low following the Japanese earthquake. But strong sales for the redesigned Camry boosted those results as well.

At Volkswagen, sales were strong across a number of models, including the Jetta, Golf and Passat. High-mileage diesel TDI versions accounted for a robust 24 percent of sales -- signaling that American car buyers may be overcoming their previous resistance to diesel engines.

Meanwhile Ford overall sales were flat compared with 2011. But executives cited bright spots in small, gas-sipping models and the Ford Escape small SUV, which has just been redesigned. Among its small cars, the compact Focus did especially well, with sales up 91 percent over 2011.

General Motors announced  overall sales gains of 1.5 percent compared with 2011, but passenger car sales rose 29 percent. Executives said small and compact cars such as the Chevrolet Cruze and Buick Verano did especially well, along with the new minicar Chevrolet Spark.

Best among the Detroit-based companies, Chrysler Group announced a 12 percent gain and the strongest September sales since 2007.

Mid-size sedans Chrysler 200 and the sporty Dodge Avenger led the sales gains, with Avenger up 89 percent over a year earlier. Other models continuing strong 2012 sales included the Jeep Grand Cherokee (up 19 percent) and the Dodge Grand Caravan minivan (up 32 percent).

Once all companies have reported, analysts expect sales will have increased by eight percent or more over last September, marking continued steady growth for the recovering industry. Much of that growth comes from pent-up demand, as the average car on U.S. roads is now about 11 years old, notes Kelley Blue Book senior market analyst Alec Gutierrez.

When it comes to market share, GM (about 18 percent) and Ford (about 15 percent) should hold about steady with August results, according to projections by TrueCar.com. Both numbers are down about one percentage point from a year earlier.

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    Jerry Edgerton, author of Car Shopping Made Easy, has been covering the car beat since Detroit companies dominated the U.S. market. The former car columnist for Money magazine and Washington correspondent for Business Week, Edgerton specializes in finding the best deals on wheels and offering advice on making your car last.

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