DETROIT—Ford, GM, Chrysler, and Nissan all reported double-digit U.S. sales increases last month, signaling the best April for car and truck sales in six years.
A rebound in pickup truck sales led the way, especially for the Detroit automakers. Small businesses are replacing aging trucks that they’ve kept since the Great Recession.
Ford’s sales increased 18 percent, with the F-Series pickup gaining 24 percent. At Chrysler, sales rose 11 percent, led by the Ram pickup, with a 49 percent sales increase. GM also saw an 11 percent sales jump, with Chevrolet Silverado pickup sales rising 28 percent for the month.
Nissan reported a 23 percent sales gain over April of 2012, including demand for the recently redesigned Altima midsize car and Sentra compact. Honda sales rose 7 percent, led by the CR-V small crossover SUV, while Hyundai sales were up 2 percent on strong sales of the Elantra compact. The only laggards were Toyota, with a sales decline of 1 percent, and Volkswagen, with a drop of 10 percent.
Americans continue to buy new cars and trucks even though unemployment remains high and economic signals of late have been mixed. Barring an unexpected event that causes a real estate price collapse or rapidly rising job losses, there’s little to stop sales from growing further in the next few years, industry analysts say.
“I don’t see any significant hurdles on the horizon,” said Alec Gutierrez, a senior market analyst at Kelley Blue Book. “I don’t see us taking a step back, provided the unemployment rate at least holds steady.” He expects U.S. auto sales to end the year around 15.3 million cars and trucks, up 5.5 percent from last year’s 14.5 million.
Many businesses and consumers still need to replace older trucks and cars. The average age of a U.S. vehicle is 11.2 years. Plus, automakers have rolled out dozens of exciting new models in the past year, drawing buyers into showrooms.
“Relatively lower gas prices coupled with small business demand improving for trucks resulted in a strong showing for small and large pickups in April,” said Jesse Toprak, senior analyst for the TrueCar.com auto-pricing site.
One category that’s soaring is small crossover SUVs. Sales rose an estimated 22.5 percent in April, according to Kelley Blue Book. Fuel-efficient models such as the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5 are driving sales, Gutierrez said.
Kelley Blue Book estimates that auto prices fell slightly in April compared with a year ago, to an average of $31,326.