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Chrysler leads April auto sales boosting U.S. manufacturing

May 6, 2012 - 19:27 By Kim Yon-se
Chrysler Group LLC led the five largest automakers by U.S. sales in exceeding analysts’ estimates for April as the industry’s increased production drove expansion in the manufacturing sector.

Chrysler sales climbed 20 percent to 141,165 light vehicles and Toyota Motor Corp.’s deliveries rose 12 percent to 178,044, according to company statements. Those results beat eight analysts’ average estimate for increases of 16 percent and 10 percent. General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. said sales declined by less than analysts’ estimated.

Stronger demand for automobiles bolstered U.S. manufacturing, which grew in April at the fastest pace in almost a year, according to Institute for Supply Management. The group’s factory index climbed to 54.8 last month, the best reading since June. Chrysler and Hyundai Motor Co. both said yesterday they will add shifts at factories later this year.

“We’ve got ourselves steady, sustainable growth in the market,” said Alan Baum, principal of auto-industry forecaster Baum & Associates in West Bloomfield, Michigan. “The auto industry is going through a little bit different cycle that is obviously helping the overall economy.”

Ford deliveries fell 5.1 percent to 179,658 cars and light trucks, and GM sales dropped 8.2 percent to 213,387. The automakers beat analysts’ estimates calling for a 5.7 percent decline for Ford and 9 percent decrease for GM.

Some analysts adjust for “selling days,” which exclude Sundays and holidays, to compare year-over-year results. April 2012 has three fewer selling days than the year-earlier month did. There’s rarely more than a one- or two-day difference. Ford’s sales rose 6.8 percent and GM’s gained 3.2 percent on a selling-day adjusted basis.

Chrysler, which builds more than half of its vehicles in the U.S., boosted worldwide shipments by 25 percent in the first quarter, the automaker said last week. The company is accelerating the addition of 1,100 jobs and a third crew of workers at a Detroit plant by adding them in November, pulling ahead plans for increasing production in early 2013, Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne said.

Deliveries of Chrysler’s 300 sedan more than doubled in April to 7,763, the Auburn Hills, Michigan-based company said today in a statement. Marchionne is counting on the new Dodge Dart compact, which begins production this week, to sustain Chrysler’s momentum later this year after 11 straight months of sales gains topping 20 percent.