Auto sales in the U.S. were up more than 15 percent in March preliminary data showed, as rising consumer confidence and cheap financing quickened the pace of a sluggish recovery more than two years in the making.

With gas above $4 in some parts of the U.S., buyers are leaning toward new fuel-efficient compacts like the Chevrolet Cruze and sub-compacts such as the Honda Fit to save money.

Many of the top marques, both foreign and domestic, reported their best numbers since before the recession hit. Volkswagen AG, notably, had its best March in almost 40 years.

Toyota posted a 15 percent rise in US sales, to 203,282 vehicles, one year after Japan’s earthquake and tsunami disaster disrupted production.

Toyota brand sales climbed nearly 18 percent from March 2011, but sales at the luxury Lexus division slipped 2.6 percent.

GM sales of cars and light trucks rose 12 percent and Ford Motor Co. deliveries climbed 5 percent, according to company statements. For Chrysler, it was the best month for the company in four years.

Analysts have raised their sales targets to nearly 15 million vehicles for 2012, up from 12.8 million last year, a much faster rebound to that benchmark than analysts anticipated even as recently as last year.

In addition, consumer confidence rose in March to its highest level since February 2011, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan reading of consumer sentiment showed.

– update 4.4.2012 – 3.30 AM US Central
March US auto sales 14.37 mln annualized rate




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