DETROIT—Fiat Chrysler’s U.S. sales rose nearly 15 percent last month as the auto industry steered toward its best October in 14 years.
The Italian-American automaker reported sales of about 196,000, led by the booming Jeep brand with a 33 percent increase. Sales were just over 170,000 a year ago.
It was Fiat Chrysler’s strongest October since 2001, when most automakers offered zero percent financing in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. All major automakers will report U.S. sales figures on Tuesday.
Pickup truck sales also helped Fiat Chrysler sales grow. The company sold almost 41,000 Rams, a 3 percent gain over a year ago for FCA’s top-selling vehicle.
Car buying site TrueCar.com predicted that October sales would rise 11.4 percent to 1.4 million. That would make October the third month this year to see double-digit gains from a year ago, after September and January.
Some of the gains were likely due to increased incentives as automakers tried to clear 2015 models off dealer lots. TrueCar said automakers spent 14.1 percent more than last October on cash-back promotions and other deals. Chevrolet was offering zero-percent financing for up to 72 months on a 2015 Camaro, while Toyota advertised $2,000 cash back on a 2015 Avalon sedan.
There were other favorable factors. Interest rates remained at record lows last month, and gas prices fell. The national average gas price reached an eight-month low of $2.20 per gallon in the last week of October, down 85 cents from the previous year. That’s putting a lot more money in car buyers’ pockets. Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service, said U.S. motorists spent $27.8 billion on gasoline last month, down 29 percent from last October.
October sales also were boosted by five weekends instead of the normal four. Saturday is usually the biggest day of the week for auto dealers.