WASHINGTON – Strong U.S. demand for SUVs and light trucks allowed automakers to post April sales results that were among the best for that month in the past decade, according to figures released Friday.
The leading carmakers saw demand climb by more than 5 percent, sending the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate for April to around 17 million units, near a record high for the sector.
Their sales of SUVs and light trucks were buoyed by low prices at the pump.
General Motors, the leading U.S. automaker, reported that its sales rose 6 percent last month to 269,056 vehicles; Ford said its sales were up 5.4 percent to 222,498 vehicles, while Fiat Chrysler said it sold 189,027 units, up 6 percent from April 2014.
Toyota, however, lagged behind with sales growth of just 1.8 percent compared to the fourth month of last year.
The sharp increase in auto sales came after U.S. growth ground to a near halt in the first quarter. Automakers, however, were confident that the economy will rebound and not adversely affect demand in the coming months.
“Consumer and commercial customer demand for pickups and utility vehicles has been building since last fall, and that’s a clear sign that the slowdown in GDP growth during the winter months was caused by factors that are mostly transitory in nature,” Kurt McNeil, GM’s vice president of U.S. sales operations, said in a statement.
The automakers also are optimistic because April is not a traditionally strong month for auto sales compared to the summer months, when carmakers roll out new-model-year vehicles and strive to reduce inventories.