Ford and GM Sales Rise, Led by Pickup Trucks

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DETROIT ( TheStreet) -- The Detroit Three reported continued strong sales in April, expected to be the best April for the auto industry since 2007.

Ford sales rose 18%, while GM and Chrysler sales both rose at an 11% rate. Ford estimated overall industry sales rose about 10%.

Pockets of strength included pickup trucks: Chrysler's Ram pickup, with unit sales up 49% from the same month a year earlier, while F-Series sales rose 24% to 59,030, the highest April total since 2006. GM said Silverado sales rose 28% to 39,395 and Sierra sales rose 13% to 14,208. Ford said pickup sales accounted for 11.5% of industry sales and are growing this year at a 20% rate, three times higher than the industry growth rate, reflecting the recovery of the housing industry.

Meanwhile Lincoln sales, which had been lagging due to a delayed rollout of the new Lincoln MKZ, increased 21% to 7,615. The MKZ set an all-time monthly sales record of 4,012, breaking the 4,000 mark for the first time ever. Retail MKZ sales more than tripled in the Los Angeles region.

Ford Fusion and Escape also set April sales records, as Fusion sales rose 24% to 26,722 and Escape rose 52% to 25,826. Overall Ford sales totaled 212,584.

Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. marketing, sales and service, said Fusion inventory has declined to just a 40-day supply. "It will continue to be a challenge to have enough Fusions this summer," he said, on the Ford sales call.

GM said sales rose 11% to 237,646, its best April since 2007. All four GM brands posted higher total and retail sales. Chevrolet rose 11% to 172,460. Cadillac sales rose 34% to 13,320, Buick rose 11% to 17,157. GMC sales rose 7% to 34,799. Volt sales declined 11% to 1,306; Malibu sales were flat at 21,734, Sonic sales rose 28% to 8,151.

"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 prepared 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."

Chrysler Group reported sales of 156,698 units, an 11% increase over the same month a year earlier and its best April sales total since 2007, as seven vehicles recorded their best April sales ever.

Ram Truck sales showed the largest gain for any Chrysler brand, growing 49% to 32,124. At Dodge, Durango was the leading brand as sales grew 65% to 5,386. The new Dart sold 8,099 units. Jeep brand sales grew 2% to 39,426 as sales of the flagship Grand Cherokee rose 27% to 15,003.

But Chrysler brand sales fell 13% to 27,836, as sales of the Chrysler 300 fell 47% to 4,120 and sales of the Chrysler 200 fell 6% to 12,492. Additionally, Volkswagen sales fell 10.3% to 33,644. "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 of America, in a prepared statement.