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US auto sales pick up in April

[WASHINGTON] US car and truck sales picked up strength in April in a sign that the auto market remains firm after the winter economic downturn, the top three automakers reported Friday.

GM sales rose 5.9 per cent from a year ago to 269,056 vehicles; Ford sales rose 5.4 per cent to 222,498 vehicles, and sales by FCA US, the US unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, gained 5.8 per cent at 189,027 units.

Pickup truck and SUV and crossover sales remained strong, but overall sales were a bit below analyst expectations, amid more general signs that US consumers remain cautious and business investment is slow.

"Consumer and commercial customer demand for pickups and utility vehicles has been building since last fall, and that's a clear sign that the slowdown in GDP growth during the winter months was caused by factors that are mostly transitory in nature," said Kurt McNeil, GM's vice president for US sales.

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For GM, truck sales were up 13 per cent from April 2014, and crossovers 25 per cent.

Ford said it was continuing to expand capacity to meet demand for its aluminum-bodied F-150 pickup. F-150 retail sales gained 8 per cent, it said, but overall sales of the F line of trucks fell 0.9 per cent.

"Kansas City Assembly, the second assembly plant building the popular new F-150, continues to ramp up production through the second quarter. Once the plant is fully online, Ford will be able to fill many fleet orders," Ford said.

SUVs, crossovers and utility trucks grew by 14.5 per cent from a year ago.

At FCA, total car sales rose 29 per cent in the month, led by the popular Jeep and Chrysler brands, while Dodge brands sank 16 per cent and the Ram truck divisions saw sales growth slow to 4 per cent.

For the first four months of the year, GM sales were up 5.9 per cent over 2014. Ford 2.9 per cent and FCA 3.4 per cent.

"The auto industry continues to be on track to have its best sales year since 2006," said Mr McNeil.