Nissan Motor Co. reported strong sales of subcompact and midsize cars such as the new four-door Versa and Altima sedan. Chrysler Group LLC reported its best August since 2007, led by strong sales of Jeeps.
GM’s sales were sparked by the Chevrolet Cruze. One out of every 10 GM vehicles sold was a Cruze, a new small sedan that has been a top seller for the company since the start of the year. Cruze sales topped 20,000 for the fifth straight month in August and the compact is GM’s first strong product in that growing market. Buyers also went for the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain small crossovers.
The early sales figures on Thursday ran counter to expectations of a weak, 4 percent rise in nationwide sales for the industry. Still, Ford, Honda and Toyota are expected to report slower sales.
Auto sales had been a bright spot for the U.S. economy through May, but began sputtering in the summer as consumer confidence waned and a March earthquake in Japan caused shortages of Honda and Toyota models. Then came Hurricane Irene, which forced many East Coast dealers to close in the month’s final weekend. Normally buyers come out on the last weekend, lured by deals and advertising.
Even before the storm, J.D. Power was forecasting total sales of 1.07 million for the month. While that’s 4 percent higher than August last year, it’s still a much slower pace than at the start of 2011.
Still, sales could improve this fall when automakers offer sweeter deals and a wider selection of models.
Other automakers reporting sales on Thursday included:
—Volkswagen AG, with sales up 10 percent because of the Jetta sedan, which saw a 36 percent increase.