Trucks help Detroit automakers post strong April sales
By BILL VLASIC
The New York Times | May 02,2013
GMC trucks are lined up on the lot of Capitol City Buick Pontiac GMC in Montpelier. The auto industry is expected to post its best April sales totals since 2007 when major automakers report monthly tallies Wednesday.
DETROIT — U.S. automakers said Wednesday that sales of pickup trucks rose sharply in April because of a revival in the housing market and increased demand from the oil and gas industry.
The increase in truck sales fueled double-digit sales growth at all three Detroit automakers and kept the industry on track to sell more than 15 million vehicles this year.
Auto analysts said the overall industry sold about 1.3 million new vehicles during April, a 10 percent improvement over the same month a year ago. It was the best April performance since 2007 and another indication that sales of new cars and trucks in the United States were returning to pre-recession levels.
“As long as automakers keep reporting their best sales in at least five years, we’ll continue to be in good shape,” said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with the auto-research site Edmunds.com.
Auto executives said pickup sales grew three times as much as the overall market during the month and were a direct result of improved housing starts and strong demand for trucks by the energy sector.
The biggest beneficiary was Ford Motor Co., the second-largest U.S. automaker, which reported that it sold 212,000 vehicles during the month, an 18 percent gain from a year ago.
Ford, which recently reported record first-quarter profits in North America, said sales of its F-Series pickup increased 24 percent in April to 59,000 vehicles.
“F-Series continues to lead the pace in the truck industry,” said Ken Czubay, Ford’s head of sales and marketing in the United States. “We are building as many as we can.”
Ford reported impressive gains across its lineup, with sales of the Escape SUV up by 52 percent and the Fusion sedan up 24 percent. Even its struggling Lincoln luxury brand had a 20 percent improvement because of strong sales of the new MKZ sedan.
General Motors, the largest of the domestic automakers, said it sold 237,000 vehicles during April, an 11 percent improvement from a year ago. Cadillac had the best performance of GM’s four brands, recording a 34 percent gain primarily from sales of its new ATS compact sedan and large XTS model. GM also reported big gains on the truck side, as sales of its Chevrolet Silverado pickup increased 28 percent to 39,000 vehicles.
Chrysler, the smallest of the Detroit companies, said it sold 156,000 new vehicles during April, an 11 percent increase from a year ago and its 37th consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains. The Ram pickup led the way with a 49 percent gain from a year ago. Chrysler also enjoyed strong performances by its profitable SUV models, with sales of the Dodge Durango up 65 percent and the new Jeep Grand Cherokee up 27 percent.
All three Detroit automakers gained market share during April and are expected to sustain that momentum with new products arriving this summer.
Among Japanese automakers, growth has slowed since their big comeback last year from inventory problems associated with the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011. Toyota, the largest Japanese auto company, said its U.S. sales fell 1 percent during April. The company is preparing to bring out several new models, including fresh versions of it Lexus luxury cars.
Of the European automakers, Volkswagen reported that it sold 33,000 new vehicles during the month, a 10 percent improvement from a year ago. VW is rapidly expanding in the United States and relying on North American results to compensate for weaker sales in the sliding European market.