POSTED: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 - 1:30pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 - 1:34pm
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Major automakers recorded another strong month of car and truck sales in March, kicking off the important spring selling season on a good note.
General Motors, Ford Motor and Chrysler Group all posted U.S. sales gains of 5 percent or better, while Toyota Motor sales edged up 1 percent from a year ago. Chrysler Group posted its best sales since December 2007.
Industrywide sales are poised to come in above the 15 million annual sales rate for the fifth straight month, after going nearly five years without reaching that benchmark. Other automakers such as Honda Motor are due to report results later Tuesday.
"American consumers appear to be quite confident in the economy, with snow storms and sequesters not deterring them a bit," said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst with Edmunds.com. "The story is the same as it has been: pent-up demand from old vehicles on the road is unleashing, credit is readily available at cheap rates, and new products are resonating with consumers."
All four automakers were roughly in line with sales forecasts for the month. GM and Ford both reported much stronger sales for pickups, SUVs and crossover models than they did for cars, while Chrysler's Ram truck unit also posted a large jump. That could be a sign that lower March gas prices helped bring truck buyers into showrooms.
GM said the rebound in the housing market also helped its truck sales. Sales to small businesses, including building contractors, jumped by nearly 15,000 vehicles at GM, a 32 percent jump compared to a year ago. The jump in home prices and home sales is leading contractors to start building more new homes than at any time in the last five years.