US automakers post best monthly sales since 2007

By Dee-ann Durbin

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, April 3 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

GM said its total U.S. sales rose 12 percent, but car sales were up a combined 62 percent because of new models including the Chevrolet Sonic subcompact and Buick Verano compact. Sales of the Chevrolet Cruze were up 20 percent. Small SUVs like the Chevrolet Equinox also did well.

Chrysler Group's sales jumped 34 percent. One standout was the Fiat 500, with sales of 3,712 vehicles, compared with just 500 last March, when the subcompact was first on the market. Sales of Chrysler's 200 and 300 sedans each doubled over last March. Both cars have recently been revamped and have better fuel economy than previous models.

Toyota Motor Corp. said sales were up 15 percent. Sales of the Prius hybrid jumped 54 percent for the month, while the Camry midsize sedan, which was updated last fall, saw sales rise 35 percent.

Ford Motor Co. reported its best March since 2007. Sales were up 5 percent as demand for the Focus small car rose 65 percent. But that came at a price. Sales of the Fiesta subcompact fell 34 percent as buyers flocked to the newer and bigger Focus.

Among larger vehicles, sales of Ford's F-Series pickup — the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. — were up 9 percent. Sales of Chrysler's Ram brand rose 18 percent. Small SUVs like the Jeep Grand Cherokee saw big gains too.

Other automakers reporting Tuesday:

— Honda sales fell 5 percent, but that compared with a particularly strong month in 2011. Buyers raced to get Hondas last year because of fears — later realized — that the March earthquake and tsunami would disrupt supplies.

— Nissan Motor Co. said sales were up 12.5 percent to 136,317, making it the best month in Nissan's history. Sales of the new Versa small car rose 41 percent, while Altima midsize sedan sales were up 27 percent. Nissan's numbers got a boost from better-than-usual incentives, which TrueCar.com estimated rose 28 percent to $3,115 per vehicle. Nissan is trying to sell off its remaining Altima sedans before a new Altima goes on sale in July. Industry incentives averaged $2,440 per vehicle.

— Volkswagen AG said its sales rose 35 percent to 36,588, the company's best March sales since 1973. Volkswagen saw big gains with the new Passat sedan and the new Beetle.

— Hyundai Motor Co. said its sales rose 13 percent to 69,728, a monthly sales record for the company. Hot sellers included the new Accent subcompact, which was up 45 percent.

Associated Press writers Tom Krisher in New York and Michelle Nealy in Chicago contributed to this report.