Ford to Chrysler U.S. sales climb as demand rises to 2007 levels

Chrysler Fleet

Edmunds, which tracks auto sales and pricing trends, estimated that about 20% of Chrysler sales last month were to fleet customers. That’s down from almost 30% a year earlier, Santa Monica, California-based Edmunds said. Even so, the carmaker’s deliveries rose for a 41st consecutive month.

Rental fleets used to be a dumping ground of sorts for American automakers with too much production and not enough demand for its cars. That’s changed after GM, Ford and Chrysler shed 29% of their combined capacity to build cars and trucks in North America from 2004 to 2012. They’ve also rolled out their most competitive passenger cars in a generation, led by GM’s Impala and Ford’s Fusion.

Fusion sales rose 14% last month. Ford plans to boost North American production in the fourth quarter by 6.8% to 785,000 vehicles, according to its statement. Third- quarter production plans were unchanged.

The average estimates of 10 analysts are for August sales to increase 11% for GM.

The self-restraint from doing too many sales to rental- fleet customers is lasting as the U.S. industry closes in on its fourth consecutive annual gain in car and light truck deliveries, the longest streak in more than a decade.

Toyota Retail

Sales to fleets probably were about 15% of the industry’s August total, analysts at LMC Automotive and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said last month. Chrysler, Detroit-based GM and Ford each have reduced their share of fleet sales this year, according to Automotive News Data Center.

Toyota Motor Corp. expects to report a 20% retail sales gain in the U.S. in August for its namesake brand, Carly Schaffner, a company spokeswoman, said late yesterday. The anticipated increase, excluding sales to fleets and premium Lexus models, was led by Prius hybrids and the Camry sedan, she said.

Honda Motor Co.’s demand from retail buyers last month may have been strong enough to offset its opposition to fleet deliveries and still post the biggest sales increase among major automakers. The average estimate of seven analysts is for gains of 20% by Honda, 17% by Nissan Motor Co. and 15% by Toyota.

Hyundai Motor Co. and affiliate Kia Motors Corp.’s combined deliveries probably rose 9.2%, the average of seven estimates. The Seoul-based carmakers have trailed industrywide sales growth in every month since September 2012.

Volkswagen AG may post a 4.4% increase in combined August sales for its VW and Audi brands, the average of four estimates.

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