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Car And Truck Sales Show Strong--But Uneven--October Growth

DETROIT (WWJ) - Strong sales of pickups and SUV's are pushing October sales numbers up six percent over 2013 levels, with an annual sales rate in the 16.4 million range.

"Gas prices, which are very low right now, are certainly helping," said analyst Michelle Krebs.

But, not every carmaker was helped.

Chrysler again leading the way, posting its best October numbers in 13 years.

“Chrysler Group sales increased 22 percent in October, our eighth month of double-digit growth this year and our 55th-consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains,” said Reid Bigland, Head of U.S. Sales. “Chrysler Group is the industry’s fastest-growing automaker driven in part by sales of our all-new Jeep Cherokee and Chrysler 200 mid-size sedan, and by the strong consumer demand for our award-winning Ram pickup trucks.”

The Chrysler 200 is selling at a 40 percent better rate than last year. Jeep sales again lead the way with a 52 percent sales increase. Ram sales were up 33 percent.

Ford sales dropped two percent, largely on tight inventories of pickup trucks, as they launch the new F-150.

"It's something that I think will be with them for a while," said LMC Automotive analyst Jeff Schuster. "From a performance standpoint, it was expected."

Some individual Ford models had a great month.

“Fusion is an outstanding success story with October marking six straight months of record sales,” said John Felice, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service. “Fusion is on pace to break the 300,000-vehicle mark this year for the first time ever. Plus, based on the strong sales of the all-new MKC, Lincoln produced its best sales results in October since 2007.”

Lincoln sales rose 25 percent, on the strength of new products like the MKC small SUV.

GM sales rose a narrow .2 percent.

"We had a small sales increase," said GM spokesman Jim Cain. "But it was enough to get us to our best October sales since 2007"

Buick sales were up 6.5 percent. GM's full size pickups also had a strong month. But, Cadillac sales dropped 8 percent. analyst Jessica Caldwell said that Cadillac's new products are very good, but they are now dealing with a much more competitive marketplace.

"There's a lot more product," she said. "There's a lot more mainstream brands that are adding luxury features to their cars."

At Nissan, strong sales of truck based products pushed sales up 13 percent in October.

“High consumer confidence and low gas prices helped Nissan set our 13th consecutive monthly sales record in October. We expect that these factors will continue to boost auto sales for the last two months of 2014.” said Fred Diaz, senior vice president, U.S. Sales & Marketing and Aftersales, Nissan. “Crossover sales are booming, and the all-new 2015 Murano, which goes into production this week in Canton, Mississippi, will bring additional excitement to Nissan’s crossover lineup that already includes the red-hot Rogue.”

Toyota sales were up 7 percent, Honda sales were up 6 percent, also pushed on by crossovers.

"The new 2015 CR-V is giving renewed momentum to what has already been an incredible year," said Jeff Conrad, Honda division senior vice president and general manager. "The success of the new Fit is an important step in re-establishing small cars as a pillar in the Honda lineup."

Volkswagen sales rose 8 percent.

The shift from cars to pickups and car-based crossover SUV's was evident in most sales reports.

"The Honda CRV outsold the Honda Accord," said analyst Larry Dominique. "That shows us, this emergence in these mid-size and smaller crossover segments are really becoming important segments in the U.S."

AutoTrader's Michelle Krebs says all of the elements are there for a strong close to the year.

"Y'know there's still a lot of people who have old cars out there. They need new ones. Credits widely available to more people. Gas prices, because they are so low, they are putting more money in people's products."

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