Providing another sign of growing economic momentum, March was one of the best months for domestic car makers in years, as rising gas prices drove sales of fuel-efficient vehicles and looser credit helped feed into pent-up demand.
Chrysler, which is controlled by Fiat SpA of Italy, reported a 34 percent increase in U.S. sales for March, compared to the same month a year ago, as it sold 163,381 cars and trucks. It was the company’s best sales month in four years and its 24th consecutive month of sales gains.
“The combination of credit availability, an improving economy, pent-up demand and even high fuel prices encouraging people to acquire newer more fuel-efficient vehicles are all helping to drive industry sales,” said Reid Bigland, head of U.S. sales for Chrysler.
General Motors Co. said sales of its vehicles rose 12 percent in March to 231,052 units, with passenger cars growing by 22 percent, compact-crossover sales rising 47 percent and midsize sales increasing 38 percent. Sales of the Chevy Volt hybrid soared 50 percent.
“The economic recovery and a deep bench of fuel-efficient cars and crossovers have been driving our sales for more than a year, but the combined impact has never been stronger than it was in March,” said Don Johnson, vice president of U.S. sales operations at GM. “Since the last time fuel prices spiked, both the economy and GM’s product portfolio are undeniably stronger. We’re now strong across the board in cars, crossovers and trucks.”
Ford Motor Co. said its U.S. sales volume rose 5 percent to 223,418 in March. Car sales were up 8 percent, with its Ford Focus skyrocketing 78 percent. The Fusion and Edge models also posted their highest-ever sales for the month.
“Rising gas prices continued to drive strong customer demand for Ford’s fuel-efficient vehicles throughout March and the first quarter,” said Ken Czubay, vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service for Ford.