General Motors and Ford Motor Co. posted U.S. sales declines for April while the pace of gains slowed at Chrysler Group. Meanwhile, Toyota generated another double-digit increase.
GM sales fell 8 percent and Ford was down 5 percent. It was the largest decline for each automaker since August 2010.
Chrysler’s 20 percent gain marked its smallest since July. Toyota’s 12 percent increase followed a 15 percent gain in March, signaling the automaker’s ongoing recovery from last year’s natural disasters in Asia.
Nissan Motor Co. said its April sales were flat, while deliveries at Volkswagen Group’s VW brand jumped 32 percent to 37,525.
Honda Motor Co. reported a 2 percent drop in sales, with the Honda division off 3 percent and Acura advancing 5 percent.
The Hyundai-Kia Group posted an April sales record, with combined volume up 1 percent to 109,814 units.
The results reflect an industry struggling to sustain the increases in previous Aprils as the market pulled out of recession. Sales rose 20 percent in April 2010 and 18 percent in April last year.
U.S. light vehicle sales are forecast to climb 1 percent to 1.16 million units in April, based on a survey of analysts by Bloomberg.
There were three fewer selling days last month compared with April 2011. GM said April marked just the second time in the last 10 years that there have been three fewer selling days compared with the previous-year period.
We expect gradual improvement in the economy going forward,” Don Johnson, head of U.S. sales operations for GM, said in a statement. “Over time, strength in the manufacturing sector and strong retail sales will lead to more job creation. That will help more consumers put the recession behind them.”
Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. also came within 1,614 sales of outselling Ford in posting its sixth straight monthly increase.
GM said its sales fell to 213,387 units, with fleet volume down 25 percent. GMC was the only division to post higher sales last month.
Chevrolet deliveries fell 8 percent. Buick and Cadillac each dropped for the seventh straight month.
At Ford, sales dipped 5 percent, with demand off 13 percent at Lincoln and 5 percent at the Ford Division. Ford said its car sales dropped 11 percent, while demand for SUVs and pickups slipped 1 percent last month.
Chrysler said it sold 141,165 light vehicles last month, up from 117,225 units a year ago. Jeep and Ram truck brand sales rose 19 percent, while deliveries at the Chrysler brand jumped 56 percent.
It was the 25th consecutive month that Chrysler sales have increased.
In addition to new and refreshed models, Chrysler is offering some of the industry’s highest incentives. TrueCar.com estimates Chrysler’s discounts averaged $3,071 per vehicle last month, down 6 percent from March but up 10 percent from April 2011.
Across the industry, incentives averaged $2,446 per vehicle last month, down 5 percent from March but up 6 percent from a year ago, TrueCar said.
The BMW Group posted a 6 percent increase in sales last month, with the BMW brand up 12 percent, but Mini volume dropped 11 percent.
Volvo said its sales dropped 24 percent last month to 4,848 units, with 2012 volume now down 3 percent.
At Jaguar-Land Rover, April sales rose 3 percent, and VW Group’s Audi brand reported a 15 percent increase in deliveries last month.
Toyota’s Prius hybrid line generated sales of 25,168 units — an April record and up 127 percent compared with the same period last year.
At Ford, demand for vehicles equipped with EcoBoost engines jumped 77 percent in April. Ford said it will add a third production shift at a Cleveland engine plant beginning Monday to increase output of 3.5-liter V-6 engines with EcoBoost.
Cars are expected to account for 55 percent of industry light vehicle sales in April, up from 54 percent in March and 49 percent over the past two years.
Automakers started April with car inventories that were below normal — a 44-day supply, while truck supplies stood at a 66-day supply.
Easing credit terms, pent-up demand and a steady, though bumpy, recovery in the U.S. economy is giving a lift to new car and truck sales.