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Auto sales: Ford gains 6% in October, but can industry surge last?

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Ford Motor Co.'s U.S. auto sales rose 6% in October to 167,803 vehicles, with sport-utility vehicles including the Escape and Explorer selling briskly.

Ford's report came as part of what most analysts expect will be a strong month for auto sales.

General Motors Co. said its U.S sales rose only a modest 2%, to 186.895 vehicles, compared with October of 2010.

But Chrysler Group said its sales rose 27% to 114,512 vehicles, its best October since 2007.

The industry is humming at an annual sales pace of more than 13 million vehicles, the best rate in several years.

While the October sales reports looked good, some in the industry believe the pace isn’t sustainable.

The strong numbers for both September and October represent shoppers who deferred their purchases due to the high prices and shortages in late April through August, said Jeremy Anwyl, chief executive of auto information company Edmunds.com.

Edmunds estimates that the sales of about 200,000 were deferred from earlier this year and that the industry is now playing catch-up.

“Depending on pricing and availability through December, most of this should play itself out by year-end,” says Anwyl. “This suggests we should view sales in October with a degree of caution. The performance over the past few months is not the start of a trend. It is more of a mini-bubble.”

But others believe the industry has some strength heading into the year-end.

“We expect the industry will be approaching 13 million in terms of absolute sales for the year,” said Jonathan Browning chief executive of Volkswagen Group of America. “The momentum is there although it is somewhat fragile” because of mixed economic data and sagging consumer confidence. 

Volkswagen had a particularly good October. Its sales rose 40% to 28,028 vehicles, its best October since 2001. The results did not include the company's Audi brand.

And Browning said the company has already surpassed its annual total for 2010,

RELATED:

GM October auto sales stall

European brands have reliability woes

Ford tumbles in Consumer Reports reliability ratings

-- Jerry Hirsch

Twitter.com/LATimesJerry

Photo: 2011 Ford F-150 trucks at a dealership in Glbert, Ariz. Credit: Associated Press

 
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