Car sales in the U.S. hit their highest monthly level since the mid-2000s for the month of April, as retailers moved an estimated 1.4 million vehicles.
Those strong monthly numbers suggest car sales for the year could hit 16.5 million, up as much as 10 percent higher than last year.
General Motors, despite its ongoing recall headaches, reported sales were up 7 percent over the same period a year ago, with a total of 254,076 vehicles sold. Sales to individual buyers were up 8 percent, while fleet sales rose 5 percent.
Chrysler saw a 14 percent increase in total April sales over the same month in 2013, to 178,652 units, for its best April since 2007. Ram pickup sales grew 17 percent, for the line’s best April ever, and Jeep brand sales were higher for the month than any in the line’s history – up 52 percent over the same period in 2013.
Toyota said its U.S. sales for April rose 13.3 percent, to 199,660 vehicles, with especially strong activity in its truck division.
Ford reported sales of 211,126 vehicles in April, a drop of 1 percent from a year ago, with declines in car sales offset by strong performance by its F-series pickup division.
“These are the best monthly numbers since before the recession started,” said Edmunds.com senior analyst Jessica Caldwell, whose company reported that the previous high was April 2006, when monthly vehicle sales for April topped 1.44 million.
Caldwell said the increases were due to improved weather and lower interest rates.
Lower interest rates meant more people are leasing, with that kind of transaction accounting for as much as 28 percent of new car sales for the month, up from 26 percent at this time last year and from 16 percent five years ago.
“It’s driven by low interest rates, which is what most car shoppers are shopping on,” Caldwell said. “The monthly cost of buying a car is the key number that’s driving a lot of sales.”