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Aug 2013 turned out to be a favorable month for automakers, with many large manufacturers recording their highest August sales since the recession. The strong sales figures drove the share price of major automobile companies higher.

While the shares of General Motors Company (GM - Analyst Report) gained 5.01% to reach $35.85, Ford Motor Co.’s (F - Analyst Report) stocks rose 3.5% to $16.91. Toyota Motor Corp. (TM - Analyst Report), Honda Motor Co. (HMC - Analyst Report) and Nissan Motor Co. (NSANY) also gained 1.24%, 1.62 and 1.09%, respectively.

Auto sales in the U.S. grew 17% to 1.5 million units in August, which is the highest since May 2007. Sales rose to 16.1 million vehicles on a seasonally adjusted rate (SAAR) basis, crossing the 16 million mark for the first time since Nov 2007.

The strong sales were attributed to the ongoing macroeconomic recovery and aging vehicles in the U.S. Among the six major automakers (in the U.S. and Japan), four recorded more than 20% volume gain in August. Let's look at the U.S. sales figures reported by individual automakers.

U.S. Automakers

General Motors’ sale of vehicles was 275,847 in August, rising 22% year over year on the back of strong demand for its Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck. In fact, it was the company’s best month in terms of sales since Sep 2008. Silverado sales went up 13.9% to 43,603 units in the month.

Ford’s total sales rose 12% year over year to 221,270 vehicles, mainly driven by strong demand for its F-Series pickup truck, Fusion, Focus and Escape. Retail sales grew 20%, while the sale of small cars increased 30%. Sales of Ford’s F-Series pickup grew 22% to 71,115 units while sales of Fiesta escalated 61.5% to 6,744 units. Fusion, Fiesta and Lincoln MKZ recorded the highest August sale, making this the best retail sales month for Ford since 2006.

Chrysler Group – controlled by Italy’s Fiat SpA (FIATY) – recorded a 12% year-over-year rise in sales, bringing the figure to 165,552 vehicles, driven by strong demand for its Ram pickup truck. This is the best August sales for the company since 2007. Ram pickup sales gained 31% to 33,009 units during the month. Dodge brand sales increased 12% and Jeep brand sales rose 8%. Even Chrysler brand sales improved 2% due to a 27% increase in sales of the 300 large sedan.

Japanese Automakers

Toyota sales increased 18.4% year over year on the basis of daily selling rate (DSR) and 22.8% on volume basis to 231,537 units. Lexus car sales surged 16.7% on DSR basis and 21.1% on volume basis to 16,978 units, led by the ES midsize sedan. Further, Lexus truck sales went up 21% year over year on DSR basis and 25.5% on volume basis. Toyota Division car sales scaled up 20.1% on DSR basis and 24.6% on volume basis to 115,975 units. Meanwhile, Toyota Division truck sales grew 16.2% on DSR basis and 20.5% on volume basis.

Honda recorded a 22.2% year-over-year rise in sales on DSR basis and 26.7% surge on volume basis to 166,432 vehicles driven by strong sales of its light trucks and Civic and Accord sedans. Light truck sales surged 27.3% while sales of Accord sedan rose 6.7% on DSR basis and 10.6% on volume basis to 38,559 units. Meanwhile, Civic reached its best August sales since 2009 of 39,458 units, up 52.8% on DSR basis and 58.5% on volume basis.

Nissan Motor posted an impressive 22.3% year-over-year rise in sales to 120,498 vehicles in August. Nissan Division sales surged 24.3% to 108,614 units, driven by models like Sentra, Altima, Versa and Leaf as well as Pathfinder and Rogue trucks. Even the sales of Infiniti Division increased 6.5% to 11,884 units in the month.

Outlook

Strong pent-up demand, easier car finance and improving macroeconomic conditions will continue to act as catalysts, driving the U.S. auto sales to the pre-recession level. Moreover, improving auto sales will also help the overall economic recovery in the U.S., being a key industry for growth. Despite some headwinds, full-year sales are expected to exceed 15.5-6 million units compared with 14.5 million units in 2012.

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