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September US car sales show industry still strong

[DETROIT] US consumers bought more cars in September than in the previous year, but early sales results from leading automakers on Wednesday were mixed.

General Motors Co, Fiat SpA's Chrysler Group and Nissan Motor Co all reported year-to-year sales gains, but Ford Motor Co said sales fell slightly from a year ago.

The generally positive results indicated industry strength continued as summer waned. A Reuters survey of nine analysts showed expectations for a 10 per cent rise in September to about 1.25 million vehicles industrywide.

Ford sales fell 3 per cent, to 180,175, as the automaker slowed production of the F-150 pickup truck, the best-selling vehicle in America, to prepare for the launch of the redesigned 2015 model. Analysts surveyed by Reuters expected a similar decline.

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F-150 sales dipped 1 per cent, with Ford's small cars and crossovers showing bigger declines. Ford's Lincoln brand jumped 13 per cent, bolstered by the new MKC compact crossover.

GM sales increased 19 per cent, to 223,437, about what analysts predicted. The automaker's full-size Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups soared 47 per cent to 66,939. GM's premium Cadillac brand was flat.

Chrysler said sales rose 19 per cent, to 169,890. Analysts expected a 17 per cent rise. Its Jeep and Ram brands were up 47 per cent and 35 per cent, respectively, but sales of Jeep Grand Cherokee fell 14 per cent.

Nissan sales climbed 19 per cent, to 102,955. Analysts looked for a 15 per cent increase. The company's premium Infiniti brand fell 13 per cent, while sales of the Nissan Leaf electric car jumped 48 per cent.

While the forecasts are for another robust sales month, some analysts were concerned that generous consumer deals, including low lease rates and zero-per cent financing, are stealing demand from the future.

Each month, auto sales are an early indicator of US consumer demand, particularly for large-ticket items.

On Tuesday, reports showed US consumer confidence fell in September for the first time in five months, and home prices in July rose less than expected from a year earlier, underscoring the unsteady nature of US economic growth. - Reuters