DETROIT — Toyota, Ford, Nissan, Chrysler and General Motors all posted double-digit U.S. sales gains last month as people snapped up pickup trucks and small cars to lead the industry toward its best month in six years.
Toyota posted the biggest gain, with sales up nearly 23 percent over August of last year. Nissan sales were up 22 percent, the best August in company history. At General Motors, sales were up almost 15 percent for the company’s best month since September 2008. Chrysler and Ford each reported 12 percent gains.
Auto stocks rose, with Ford and GM up more than 3 percent. U.S.-traded shares of the Japanese automakers all rose more than 1 percent.
Chrysler and GM each forecast that total U.S. sales in August ran at an annual rate above 16 million, a pace not seen since November 2007, a month before the start of the Great Recession.
Mustafa Mohatarem, GM’s chief economist, predicted that rate of sales is here to stay. History, he said, shows auto sales follow a trend, and that trend is now back above pre-recession levels. “With the underlying economy fairly solid and with the still very high average age of the fleet, I have full expectations that we will continue to see a fairly steady industry,” Mohatarem said.
The average age of a vehicle on U.S. roads today is a record 11.4 years, according to the Polk research firm. That means more people have to replace cars and trucks that they kept through the recession.
While GM didn’t officially raise its sales forecast for the year from 15.5 million, Mohatarem said he expects the year to end with sales closer to 15.8 million vehicles.
Also, the industry is on better footing than it was in 2007. Prices are high and automakers aren’t resorting to huge discounts to pull customers into showrooms, Mohatarem said.
Consumers are spending at record levels to buy loaded-up vehicles, according to the TrueCar.com auto pricing web site. The average U.S. vehicle sold for an estimated $31,252 last month, up almost $1,000 over August of last year and $24 higher than the previous record in December of 2012. Five automakers, Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Nissan and Volkswagen, all had record-high selling prices last month, according to TrueCar.
At Chrysler, Jeep sales rose 8 percent for the brand’s best August in 11 years. Grand Cherokee SUV sales were up 40 percent. Chrysler recorded its 41st consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains.