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

Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC reported U.S. sales gains for August as analysts projected the best month for industrywide deliveries in six years.

Sales of cars light trucks rose 12% for Ford and Chrysler, according to company statements. The results compared with 10 analysts’ average estimates for gains of 10% by Ford and 13% by Chrysler in a survey by Bloomberg News.

Ford, Chrysler and General Motors Co. have closed unneeded factories and rolled out better cars that are drawing demand from both retail and fleet buyers, lifting the average prices paid for new vehicles to record highs. That means today’s industry is much healthier than six years ago, the last time automakers were selling as many cars and trucks as last month.

“In 2007, we were achieving that sales level by giving cars away because the auto companies had too many factories,” John Casesa, senior managing director at Guggenheim Partners LLC, said today on Bloomberg Radio. “Today, there’s real demand for that product. It’s a fundamentally different industry.”

U.S. car and light truck sales may have climbed 14% in August to 1.47 million, the average estimate of 10 analysts in the survey by Bloomberg News. Automakers last sold that many vehicles in one month in August 2007, according to researcher Autodata Corp.

The annualized industry sales rate, adjusted for seasonal trends, probably accelerated to 15.8 million, the average of 17 estimates, from 14.5 million a year earlier.

Chrysler today forecast a 16.1 million industry sales pace for August in its statement. The projection includes medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, which typically account for at least 200,000 deliveries per year.

Ram Pickups

Chrysler said sales of the Ram pickup surged 31% to 33,009 and Jeep Grand Cherokee jumped 40% to 17,976. The company controlled by Turin, Italy-based Fiat SpA reported gains for all five of its brands and extended a more than three-year streak of total U.S. sales increases.

Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne is introducing new vehicles including the Jeep Cherokee sport-utility vehicle and Ram pickups to wean Chrysler from its past dependence on discounted deliveries to rental-car companies.

“We’re seeing Chrysler shift its sales, relying less on fleet sales,” Michelle Krebs, an analyst at auto researcher Edmunds.com, said before the carmaker released results. “It’s a positive in terms of profitability of the business and consumer satisfaction in terms of resale value of their vehicles.”

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