COLMA, CA - MAY 01: New Ford trucks are displayed on the sales lot at Serramonte Ford on May 1, 2013 in Colma, California. Ford Motor Co. reported a 18 percent surge in April sales that was fueled by its best April for truck sales since April 2005. Sales of the F-150 pickup were up 24 percent compared to one year ago. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
USA TODAY - Ford reported an April sales increase of 18 percent, while General Motors and Chrysler each enjoyed 11 percent gains, bolstered by a strong stock market, rising home prices and many consumers' need to replace old vehicles.
Rising full-size pickup truck sales helped boost gains by the Detroit 3, which dominate that market.
But cars sold well for Ford, up 21 percent, led by the Fusion. Truck and utility vehicle sales were both up 16 percent as the momentum continues for F-Series and Escape. The automaker had total sales of 212,584.
GM reported a 34 percent increase for Cadillac, 11 percent for Buick, 11 percent for Chevrolet and 7 percent for GMC.
Toyota reported its overall sales slipped 1.1 percent from a year earlier, but model-by-model sales will be released later today.
"Car-buying conditions are strong and will continue to release pent-up demand," said Kurt McNeil, vice president of U.S. sales operations, in a statement. "We're very optimistic because GM's market share is growing, the economy continues to move forward and important car and truck launches are just getting underway."
The industry overall expects that last month was the strongest April since 2007.
April sales stories: Maker-by-maker reports of the month's results
For Chrysler, Ram trucks led the way with a 49 percent jump and that helped the automaker report its 37th consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains.
Sales increased 49 percent for Ram, 18 percent for Dodge, 2 percent for Jeep and 1 percent for Fiat while sales fell 13 percent for Chrysler.
"Our sales last month were solid across the board with seven Chrysler Group vehicles recording their best April sales ever," said Reid Bigland, Chrysler's of U.S. sales and CEO of Ram.
Volkswagen, by contrast, saw sales fall 10 percent to 33,644 units. The company reported a 16 percent decrease in sales of its most popular model, the Jetta compact sedan, and a 10 percent decrease in sales of its second-most popular vehicle, the Passat midsize sedan.
"While it was a challenging month, particularly in the compact and midsize sedan segments, we remain solidly focused on our long-term growth strategy," said Jonathan Browning, CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, in a statement.
Ford's Lincoln brand showed modest momentum with a 21 percent increase, driven by sales of the new MKZ that more than doubled (up 115 percent) as adequate quantities finally got to dealers after earlier production problems.
Pickups are hot
Sales of Ford's F-series pickups, the most popular vehicle in the U.S., rose 24 percent to 59,030 units.
Sales of the Chevrolet Silverado rose 28 percent to 39,395 units as the automaker prepares to introduce the redesigned 2014 version of the pickup truck and its sister, the GMC Sierra, later this month.
Sales of the Ram 1500 pickup soared 54 percent while sales of Ram heavy duty pickups increased 30 percent.
Inventory of GM's full-size pickups, which is used as a gauge for the health of GM truck sales, fell from 117 days supply at the end of March to 103 at the end of April. The company is currently selling the rest of its 2013 pickups.
The compact Chevy Cruze rose 21 percent to 22,032 units, but the struggling mid-size Chevy Malibu slipped 1 percent to 21,734.
The Chevy Equinox continued its streak of solid sales, rising 15 percent to 20,965.
April marked the first month of sales for the redesigned 2014 Chevrolet Impala. The company is still producing the previous version for fleet buyers and calling it Impala Limited. Impala sales fell 27 percent to 10,943 as GM converted its plants to the new model.
Automotive forecasting firms are predicting that industry sales will increase by about 10 percent as total sales surpass 1.3 million new cars and trucks. That would translate into a seasonally adjusted pace of about 15.2 million for the year.
"We're forecasting the best April car sales since 2007, and that's consistent with the strong growth we've seen in the last several months," Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst for Edmunds.com said. "Sales are almost back to pre-recession levels, so as long as automakers keep reporting their best sales in at least five years, we'll continue to be in good shape."
In April, consumer confidence rose to 68.1, up from 61.9 in March, according to the Conference Board's consumer sentiment index.
Also, the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended April up 13.3 percent for the year, the S&P 500 up 12 percent and the Nasdaq up 10.2 percent.
"The irrepressible buying behavior of consumers is driving autosales growth in 2013, as consumer spending remains remarkably stronger than the economy suggests it should be," said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive. "If the current favorable trend in the stock markets and housing continues throughout the year, the automotive market may be poised for a breakthrough performance."
(Copyright © 2013 USA TODAY)