DETROIT (AP) — Big discounts on pickup trucks kept U.S. auto sales strong in September.
General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group led the industry with 19-percent sales increases over last September. Toyota sales rose 2 percent, while Ford and Volkswagen were down.
The pace was expected to slow from a blistering August, which was the best month for the industry in eight years. August got a boost from 2014 model year clearance sales and Labor Day promotions.
While August was fueled by incentives on midsize cars, September saw good deals on pickup trucks. The second half of the year is usually stronger for pickup sales, and stable gas prices, employment gains and higher consumer confidence bodes well for automakers this year.
GM and Chrysler took advantage of Ford, which has temporarily closed a truck factory to retool for its new aluminum-clad F-150. Ford cut back on discounts in order to keep more trucks in stock during the shutdown. As a result, GM said its light-duty Silverado outsold Ford's F-150 for the first month since 2011.
Ford's sales dropped 3 percent to 180,175, and F-Series truck sales were down 1 percent to 59,863. It was the first time in seven months that Ford's monthly truck sales have dropped below 60,000.
Ford Motor Co. saw a 9 percent increase in Fusion sedan sales, but otherwise its car sales were down. Sales of the Escape small SUV fell 4 percent; Ford blamed that on a sharp cutback on sales to rental car companies.
GM's sales totaled 223,437 cars and trucks. Three of its four brands saw double-digit gains; Cadillac sales were flat compared with last September.
Sales of the Chevrolet Silverado pickup rose 54 percent to 50,176, while the GMC Sierra pickup was up 25 percent to 16,763.
GM spent just under $5,000 in incentives per pickup, which was 30 percent, or $1,140, higher than a year ago, according to estimates by J.D. Power and Associates. By comparison, Ford said its incentive spending dropped $160 per truck to $4,300.
GM's SUV sales were also strong. Sales of the recently revamped Cadillac Escalade more than doubled, while Chevrolet Traverse sales rose 45 percent.
Chrysler sold 169,890 cars and trucks, its best September since 2005. Ram truck sales rose 30 percent to 36,612 after Chrysler raised Ram incentives by 22 percent to $4,640.
Chrysler also benefited from buyers' increasing preference for small SUVs. Sales of the Jeep Cherokee, which was introduced late last year, surpassed the bigger Grand Cherokee for the first time. Jeep brand sales increased by 47 percent over last September.
Toyota sales rose 2 percent, with double-digit gains for another small SUV, the RAV4. Honda sales rose 12 percent on the strength of the CR-V SUV and the Honda Fit subcompact, which jumped 66.5 percent
Other automakers reporting Wednesday:
— Nissan sales rose 18.5 percent to 102,955. Sales of the newly revamped Rogue crossover jumped 52 percent, while sales of the electric Leaf were up 47 percent.
— Volkswagen sales fell 18.6 percent to 25,995, but the struggling German brand saw a glimmer of hope as its new Golf arrived in showrooms. Golf sales were up 93 percent.