Chrysler rises amid strong auto sales numbers, according to report

In another sign that the chilly recession is slowly melting, data released by automakers about U.S. light vehicle sales in March showed that more consumers were choosing to enter the market and looking to buy a new car.

Sales during the month ran at a seasonally adjusted rate of roughly 14.5 million. That number was roughly in line with analysts’ projections, according to Bloomberg*, which were influenced by strong activity during the first few months of the year.

General Motors and Ford each posted sales gains compared to the past year, even if those improvements were slightly behind what had been anticipated. However, they were balanced out by sharp gains by Chrysler and Nissan, with the Detroit automaker, now controlled by Fiat, seeing sales spike 34 percent.

So far this year, nearly every automaker has experienced increased sales in the United States through the first three months of the year. Out of the top 19 companies, only Mitsubishi reported a sales decrease compared to 2011.

Gas prices, old cars driving purchases

Before the data was released, analysts told Bloomberg** that many consumers are looking to replace vehicles that they had maintained during the recession.

“There’s no question that vehicle sales at the start of the year are ahead of expectations,” Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting for LMC Automotive in Troy, Michigan, told the news agency. “Pent-up demand is causing buyers to come back into showrooms. Vehicles are older and need to be replaced, and there’s a strong feeling of further recovery ahead.”

Other comments indicated that some of those buying cars are doing so in an effort to get better fuel economy, given that gas prices have risen significantly in recent months. Bloomberg said that a gallon of gasoline has increased in price by 20 percent. That segment of the population has been heavily focused on compact cars as well as hybrids and electric vehicles.

Fuel costs unlikely to plummet

While gas price increases have slowed recently, the many global factors which have an impact on oil prices remain somewhat unsettled. In a post for MSN Money, investment columnist Anthony Mirhaydari*** says that supply and demand issues in Europe and Asia have set the stage for prices to rise somewhat again before easing slightly by the end of the summer as demand slips.

*according to Bloomberg on April 3, 2012
**according to Bloomberg on April 2, 2012
***according to Anthony Mirhaydari on MSN Money on April 20, 2012
via Peter Montanez

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