Ford-Chrysler U.S. sales increases build on market share gains

Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC reported U.S. sales increases for April, building on the first sweep of market share gains by all three domestic automakers in the first quarter of any year in two decades.

Ford sales of cars and light trucks rose 18% to 211,984, the Dearborn, Michigan-based company said today in a statement. Deliveries for Chrysler, majority owned by Fiat SpA, climbed 11% to 156,698. The average estimates of 11 analysts in a survey by Bloomberg were for gains of 17% by Ford and 10% by Auburn Hills, Michigan-based Chrysler.

For the first time since 1993, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors Co. pulled off a sweep in the first three months of a year, with all three gaining U.S. market share in 2013’s first quarter. Analysts’ estimates call for all three to post bigger sales gains in April than Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co., which may test the resilience of U.S. automakers’ advances as they increasingly benefit from a weakening yen.

“Detroit should celebrate while they can because the race is tight,” Michelle Krebs, an analyst for auto researcher Edmunds.com, said in an interview. “The Japanese have a yen advantage right now, and we could start seeing them use that in pricing and in extra marketing.”

U.S. light-vehicle sales probably climbed 11% in April to 1.31 million, the average estimate of nine analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. The annualized industry sales rate, adjusted for seasonal trends, may have risen to 15.2 million, the average of 17 estimates, from 14.1 million a year earlier. That would keep the market on pace for its best year since 2007.

Ford rose 1% to $13.74 at 9:46 a.m. in New York trading. GM slipped 0.3% to $30.74.

Ram, Jeep

Deliveries for Chrysler, the third-largest U.S. automaker, have increased 37 consecutive months, the longest stretch in the company’s records that date back to 1985. The automaker said earlier this week that first-quarter net income slid 65% in part because introducing the new Ram Heavy Duty truck and Jeep Grand Cherokee and Compass SUVs raised costs and reduced output.

“You should see a substantial improvement in numbers” starting this quarter, Sergio Marchionne, chief executive officer of Chrysler and Fiat, said of U.S. sales on an April 29 conference call. “Now that the launch issues in connection with the Grand Cherokee and the Ram Heavy Duty are behind us, the big issue for us now is to execute flawlessly on the launch of the Cherokee.”

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