By Jeff Gilbert

DETROIT — (WWJ) It appears the auto industry has put the “polar vortex” in the rear view mirror, with a second consecutive monthly sales increase.

Most major brands reported significant sales increases for April, after also seeing strong reports in March.

“It looks like we’re seeing that growth we expected,” said senior analyst Jessica Caldwell. “January and February sort of put us off-kilter and made us take a bit of a pause.”

It’s now apparant, Caldwell says, that the slowdown in January and February was weather related. Sales, she says, have now returned to the growth track we had been seeing.

Even though its big recall put General Motors in the news a lot. They still posted a 7 percent April sales gain, beating analyst expectations.

“They have been able to persevere despite some of the negative publicity they’ve gotten,” said Caldwell. “Part of that is they have a lot of trucks and SUV’s.”

April was a very strong month for pickup and SUV sales, says Caldwell. That explains why Ford could see a sharp decline in fleet sales and still only see a one percent sales drop.

“F-Series and Explorer showed considerable strength in April, posting their best results in almost a decade,” said John Felice, Ford vice president, U.S. marketing, sales and service. “We also saw another breakout month for Fusion, with continued strength in the Western region. Overall, industry sales continued the rebound from January and February and are on a path of steady growth.”

Chrysler again leading the domestics with a 14 percent sales gain.

“Strong consumer demand for our Jeep sport-utility vehicles and Ram pickup trucks continued in April as Chrysler Group extended its streak to 49-consecutive months of year-over-year sales gains,” said Reid Bigland, Head of U.S. Sales. “The spring selling season is heating up as our Jeep brand had its best monthly sales ever. Both of our minivans had a strong April and the Ram pickup truck had its best April sales ever.”

Jeep sales were up 52 percent.

“Jeep has been a tremendous contributor to Chrysler’s success, mainly the new Cherokee, which wasn’t available in their portfolio at this time last year,” said Kelley Blue Book analyst Alec Gutierrez.

Most import brands reported sales increases. Nissan sales were up 18 percent. Toyota sales rose 13 percent.

Gutierrez says there’s still strong pent up demand, and credit is easier to get.

“Auto lenders seem to be opening up their books with less than perfect credit. We see zero percent financing out there. We know that about 25 percent of all vehicles sold so far this year have been leased.”

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Twitter: @jefferygilbert


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