Updates for 2014 model year include eight-speed automatic, new interior features on Jeep's Grand Cherokee.(Photo: AJ Mueller)
James R. Healey and Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY
Fueled by better products, low-interest loans, cheap leases and intense Labor Day shopping, Detroit car companies reported numerous sales records for brands and models in August.
Big trucks and SUVs are rebounding remarkably fast.
General Motors said pickup sales rose 15% and large SUV sales rose 29%. Chrysler Group's Ram full-size light-duty pickup was up 31%, heavy-duties rose 26%, and the large Jeep and Dodge SUVs both had healthy sales gains.
Ford Motor sales of big F-series pickups topped 70,000 for the month, second time this year it's surpassed that mark. The 70,000 p;ace, if held all year, would equal an astounding 840,000 pickups, nearly what Ford sold when trucks ruled before the recession and national worry over high gasoline prices.
Chrysler Group said sales in August were up 12%, the best for that month in six years.
Auto researcher Edmunds.com had predicted 9%. "Chrysler came in with stronger sales than expected," says Edmunds.com senior analyst Michelle Krebs. "That indicates either the Labor Day close was very strong or Chrysler plugged some extra fleet sales into August."
If Chrysler's healthy August "is due to a strong Labor Day close, we likely will see other automakers beating forecasts as well," she says.
•It was the 41st-consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains.
•All the company's brands -- Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram and Fiat -- reported sales increases in August vs. the same month a year earlier.
•Ram: Sales of the light duty pickup were up 31% in August, driven by a sharp increase in crew-cab sales. Heavy-duty models rose 26%.
•Jeep: Patriot sales rose 42%, the largest percentage increase of any Jeep model. Grand Cherokee sales zoomed 40% on the strength of 2014-model updates that include an eight-speed transmission and styling and interior changes. It was the Grand Cherokee's best sales month this year
•Chrysler: Namesake brand sales barely rose, up just 2%, despite a 27% gain by the Chrysler 300 full-size sedan. Sales of the Chrysler Town & Country minivan were up 11%, best August since 2002.
•Dodge: Charger sales were up 37%. Durango full-size SUV, freshened for 2014, jumped 117%.
•Fiat: The Italian brand is marketed by Chrysler Group in the U.S. It's sales barely moved, up only 1% from a year earlier. It was, however, the slow-growing brand's best month since launching the tiny 500 here in 2011. The larger 500L went on sale in June and it seemed to be catching on quicker than the smaller 500. Sales in August were up 26% from July's tally.
Other Detroit automakers report sales later today.
Ford said its August sales rose 12%, and it announced 2013 fourth-quarter production of 785,000 vehicles, up 7% from 2012.
•Fusion sales hit an August record. The strongest gains came from the western region of the country, much of which is import territory and Detroit makers have trouble getting traction.
•Fiesta and C-Max hybrids helped push small car sales up 30% and were especially popular among coastal and millennial buyers -- also typically challenging for Detroit.
•F-series pickup sales topped 70,000 the second time this year, as big trucks seem to be back in full song.
•The Lincoln brand's MKZ, a new design, had its best-ever August, holding out needed hope for the foundering marque.
GM reported August sales rose 15%.
•Cadillac, benefiting from the still-fresh ATS compact sedan, was up 38%.
•Buick, helped by the tiny new Encore SUV and continued interest in a freshend Enclave big SUV, was up 37%
•GMC, powered by redesigned pickups, rose 34%.
•Chevrolet was up 10%, helped by the redesigned pickups.