U.S. car sales returning to good old days image

As industry analysts and the carmakers expected, the sales bounced back in August, reaching a pace not seen since before the financial crisis.

Low interest rates and slow-but-steady job growth are encouraging consumers to trade in cars and trucks that average about 11 years old, say auto makers, which are adding production capacity and overnight shifts to satisfy demand.

Buyers purchased 1.5 million vehicles last month, up 17% from a year ago, with nearly all-major automakers reporting double-digit sales gains. The faster-than-expected rebound is a bright spot for U.S. and other carmakers coping with slumping demand in Europe and uncertainty in some big developing markets.

“It was just phenomenal. The market is real strong right now,” said Doug Waikem, owner of seven dealerships in Massillon, Ohio, a rust-belt state hard hit during the recession five years ago. “It hasn’t been like this since the ’80s,” Mr. Waikem said.

August’s sales translated to an annualized pace of 16.09 million vehicles, up from December 2007’s about 16 million. Some 17.4 million vehicles were sold in 2000.

Asian and European carmakers also had strong showings. Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Nissan reported gains of 23%, 27% and 22%, respectively. Germany’s BMW said sales of its luxury cars and sport-utility vehicles soared 36% over a year earlier.

Toyota, which outsold Ford to rank No. 2 among U.S. auto suppliers, said August was its best month in the U.S. in more than five years. Imports are taking back share lost in the wake of the 2011 Japanese earthquake. Import brands held 56.1% of sales last month, up from a low of 49.9% in June 2011.

GM said brisk sales of pickup trucks, Cadillacs and Buicks pushed its sales to 275,847 vehicles, 15% more than a year ago, which is the highest monthly total for GM since September 2008.

Ford’s sales increased 12% to 220,404 cars and light trucks. The total included a staggering 71,115 F-series pickup trucks. Ford said that was the equivalent of selling one F-series truck every 42 seconds, 24 hours a day. The company hadn’t sold that many pickup trucks in one month since 2006.

Chrysler, meanwhile, reported sales of 120,161 vehicles, up 11%. Its sales have risen for 41 months in a row. The smallest of the Detroit Three benefited from a 31% jump in sales of Ram pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango.

Via The Wall Street Journal