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US auto sales extend gains despite government shutdown

General Motors, Ford and Chrysler posted double digit rises from October 2012 sales while Japanese rival Toyota's sales grew more modestly

AFP , Friday 1 Nov 2013

The US auto industry extended its steady gains in October despite economic uncertainty caused by a government shutdown.

Automotive website forecasts that total monthly industry sales will rise 12.7 percent over a year ago and reach an adjusted, annualized pace of 15.5 million vehicles once all automakers have reported. General Motors, Ford and Chrysler posted double digit rises from October 2012 sales while Japanese rival Toyota's sales grew more modestly.

Weekly data suggested that consumers "started to get jittery" towards the end of the 16-day political showdown, which saw hundreds of thousands of federal employees laid off with no certainty of being paid, said Edmunds analyst Jessica Caldwell.

But sales soon recovered when the government got back to work on October 17 and back pay was assured.

GM's sales rose 16 percent to 226,402 vehicles in October and were also up 16 percent for the year to date.

"The sales tempo really picked up after the government shutdown ended," GM sales chief Kurt McNeil said in a statement.

"We are particularly pleased with our truck momentum."

Ford posted its best October retail sales since 2004 while total sales (which include fleet sales) rose 14 percent to 191,985 vehicles. Its sales for the first 10 months of the year were up 12 percent.

"October was simply an outstanding retail performance, as consumers continued to choose Ford for great fuel efficiency, styling and value at all levels of the market," Ford sales chief John Felice said in a statement.

Chrysler's sales rose 11 percent to 140,083 vehicles in its best October performance since 2007.

The third largest US automaker has now posted 43 consecutive months of sales gains and its sales are up nine percent for the year to date.

"After a choppy start to the beginning of the month, Chrysler Group sales accelerated in the second half of the month with renewed consumer confidence and the launch of our all-new Jeep Cherokee," Chrysler sales chief Reid Bigland said.

Toyota's sales rose nine percent to 168,976 vehicles in October, the automaker said in a preview of its full results.

"Consumers showed resiliency in October with steady auto sales despite headwinds caused by the government shutdown," said Bill Fay, general manager and group vice president.

"The growth in the auto industry continues to play a leading role in the economic recovery, and Toyota is on track for a strong close to the year."

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