(Corrects second bullet point to show JP Morgan forecasting
14.5 mln sales rate, not 14.3 mln)
* Higher gasoline prices spur sales of compact cars
* JP Morgan: Aug on track for 14.5 million annual sales rate
* GM's August sales rise 10 pct, Ford up 13 pct
By Bernie Woodall and Deepa Seetharaman
DETROIT, Sept 4 U.S. auto sales continued to
show a slow but steady recovery in August, as all three Detroit
automakers reported sales gains that outstripped analyst
General Motors Co posted a 10 percent jump, as higher
gasoline prices spurred sales of GM's Cruze and other compact
cars. Average U.S. gasoline prices have risen about 21 cents a
gallon in the past month.
"Higher gas prices in August will lead to unseasonably
strong small car performance across the industry," said
Edmunds.com analyst Jessica Caldwell.
With roughly 70 percent of the market reporting so far on
Tuesday, the U.S. auto industry is on track to show an annual
sales rate of 14.5 million vehicles, J.P. Morgan said.
Analysts polled by Reuters forecast an annualized sales rate of
14.2 million light vehicles.
GM predicted an annual sales rate of about 14.6 million for
August. Ford Motor Co, the second-largest U.S. automaker,
said the sales rate for the month would be in the mid- to
high-14 million range, including medium and heavy trucks.
So far this year, the U.S. auto sales rate has been 14.3
million on an annualized basis, GM said. Automakers are banking
on a rebound in U.S. auto sales in the second half of the year
after sales dipped in the spring.
GM said sales rose to 240,520 vehicles. Ford's U.S. August
sales rose 13 percent to 197,249 vehicles, and Chrysler Group
LLC posted a 14 percent rise in August.
Chrysler sales were 148,472 vehicles, which the company said
showed its best performance for August since 2007. Chrysler is
managed and majority-owned by Italy's Fiat SpA.
GM shares were down 0.5 percent at $21.25 at midmorning on
Tuesday, and Ford shares were up 0.5 percent at $9.38. The broad
S&P 500 Index was down 0.6 percent.
VW'S BEST AUGUST IN 39 YEARS
The desire by consumers to replace older cars and trucks
helped U.S. auto sales grow at a faster rate last month than the
overall economy, said Carsten Krebs, head of communications for
Volkswagen Group of America.
The U.S. economy grew at a rate of 1.7 percent in the second
Volkswagen turned in its best August U.S. sales performance
since 1973, Krebs said, with the carmaker's sales rising 62.5
percent to 41,011 vehicles.
Rising gasoline prices were a factor in consumers' choice of
vehicles in August, said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president of U.S.
"As fuel prices rose again during August, we saw growing
numbers of people gravitate toward our fuel-efficient vehicles,"
Still, sales of its Fiesta small car fell 28 percent in
August. Meanwhile, Focus compact car sales rose 31.5 percent.
Ford reported record sales for the Escape crossover and
Fusion sedan, and said the F-Series pickup had its best sales
month all year. Ford brand sales were up 13.1 percent, while
Lincoln brand sales rose 1.7 percent.
U.S. auto industry sales should be 14.6 million new vehicles
on a seasonally adjusted annualized rate, including medium and
heavy-duty trucks, Chrysler said.
Taking out the medium and heavy trucks, that would be about
14.3 million light cars and trucks, compared with 14.1 million
projected in July.
Economists polled by Thomson Reuters last week expected an
August annualized sales rate of 14.2 million light vehicles,
compared with 12.1 million vehicles on an annualized rate last
Analysts use the light vehicles sales figure as a key
measure of the industry's health.
(Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Matthew Lewis)