By Jeff Gilbert

DETROT (WWJ) – It looks like all there Detroit carmakers outperformed the market, as car sales numbers come in strong for March.

“It looks like the automotive recovery continues to outpace the general recovery,” said Alec Gutierrez, an analyst with Kelly Blue Book.

GM and Ford posted sales increases of six percent, with Chrysler sales up five percent. The industry as a whole appears to be on track to see sales up four percent from a strong March of 2012.

“We still continue to see a positive economic story,” says GM sales operations manager Kurt McNeil. “It was our best March in five years. We feel really good about that. It was really led by Cadillac and Buick.”

Cadillac saw sales up 50 percent. Buick sales were up 37 percent.

Ford sales were pushed on by a strong showing of two new products, the new Escape and new Fusion.

“Customers are buying our all-new Fusion and Escape in record numbers, and we are working harder than ever to keep pace with demand for these fuel-efficient vehicles,” said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service. “Full-size pickup demand continues gaining momentum, outperforming the industry for the third consecutive month.”

Ford saw pickup sales up 16 percent. At Chrysler, Ram had its best month ever, with sales up 24 percent.

March was Chrysler’s best sales month since December of 2007. It was the company’s 36th consecutive month of year over year sales increases.

“With our 5 percent sales increase in March, Chrysler Group has now achieved year-over-year sales gains in every month for the past three years,” said Reid Bigland, Head of U.S. Sales. “Furthermore, in spite of limited inventory last month on some of our most popular models, we also managed to record our strongest monthly sales since December 2007.”

Volkswagen sales rose 3 percent year over year. Nissan sales were up 1 percent. It was still Nissan’s best month ever. Toyota sales also rose 1 percent.

Kelly Blue Books Alec Gutierrez says we’re seeing more acceptance of domestic vehicles on the east and west coasts, areas where imports have ruled for years.

“The automotive landscape in general is the most competitive its ever been,” he said. “Whether you’re buying a Toyota, a Honda, a Ford or a Chrysler, you can find a top notch competitor.” is projecting an annual sales rate of 15.6 million units. That would make March the best sales month since May of 2007.

The forecasting firm also increased its full year sales forecast. Edmunds expects the industry to sell 15.5 million cars and truck this year.

“Car shoppers seem unfazed by fiscal issues in the news,” says Chief Economist Lacey Plache, PhD. “Even though consumer confidence has been up and down so far this year, there are ‘wealth effects’ that are making Americans feel comfortable finally buying the new cars they’ve been waiting for.”

Consumers seem to be ignoring the budget debate in Washington. Analysts say the strong sales have been pushed on by an aging car fleet, easier access to credit, and a lot of new models in showrooms.

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Twitter: @Jefferygilbert

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