US Auto Sale: Industrywide sales rose just 2.3% in April image

Industrywide sales rose just 2.3 percent in April, helped by strong gains at Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) and Chrysler Group LLC, as bad weather and fewer selling days ate into the business of some of the largest automakers, including General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co.

Chrysler won this time – exceeding analysts’ estimates for April. Chrysler sales climbed 20 percent to 141,165 light vehicles, and Toyota’s deliveries rose 12 percent to 178,044, according to company statements.

Auto buying site predicts Toyota’s U.S. market share reached 15.3 percent last month, its highest level since December 2010. That’s up from a low of 12.5 percent last September, when the automaker sold 61,600 fewer vehicles than it’s expected to in April.

GM, the nation’s biggest auto company, saw its sales fall 8.2% to 213,387 vehicles in April. Much of the decline came largely because of fewer sales to fleet customers such as rental car companies, government agencies and commercial customers.

Sales of the Chevrolet Cruze compact fell almost 28 percent to just over 18,000 as it faced growing competition from Ford, Hyundai and others. The Cruze has been a star for GM for more than a year, and April of 2011 was among its strongest months.

During the first four months of the year, passenger car sales were up 15 percent, while light truck sales rose just 5.5 percent. In that time, average fuel prices in the United States neared their record price of $4 a gallon.