DETROIT – U.S. auto sales rose in October as buyers grew more confident in the economy and new models drew them into dealerships.
General Motors Co., which is preparing for an initial stock offering expected later this month, saw sales rise 3.5 percent in October. Last month is shaping up to one of the industry's best since August of 2009, when big government discounts spurred Americans to buy high numbers of cars and trucks.
"Consumer confidence is now stabilizing, and consumers are beginning to believe that they've already weathered the worst," said Don Johnson, vice president of U.S. sales operations for GM. The economy is showing "signs of a steady recovery, and we do believe they will bode well for the auto industry."
October sales could hit a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 12 million after all car makers report their U.S. results. While the rate falls short of the 14 million level during Cash for Clunkers in August 2009, it's up from a low of 10.5 million this February.
October sales were also strong for Honda, Chrysler and Hyundai.
GM said sales of SUVs and wagons were strong, up 36 percent for October and up 64 percent year to date. Sales of GM's most popular wagons - the Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain and Cadillac SRX - were up 58 percent compared with last October. Truck sales were also up, with the newly launched Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra posting sales up 12 percent and 13.2 percent respectively.
Chrysler Group LLC said its sales were up 37 percent from last October, partly on the strength of the new Jeep Grand Cherokee, which saw sales more than triple. Ram pickup sales rose 41 percent.
New products also gave a boost to Honda Motor Co., whose sales climbed 16 percent. October was the first full month on the market for the Odyssey minivan, which saw October sales jump 52 percent. Wagons were also hot at Honda, where CR-V sales climbed 19 percent.
Automakers are expecting to sell around 11.5 million vehicles this year, up from a 30-year low of 10.4 million in 2009.
Consumer confidence rose slightly in October, according to a report released last week by the Conference Board. That, and a rebounding stock market, may have spurred buyers to invest in a new vehicle. Analysts are expecting last month to be the best October for the industry since 2007.
Most automakers were reporting U.S. auto sales Wednesday, but several reported results Tuesday. Among them:
— Hyundai said its October sales jumped 38 percent as sales of the new Sonata midsize sedan more than doubled.
— Subaru sales rose 25 percent for the month on strong sales of the Outback and Forester wagons.
— Volkswagen sales rose 18 percent with a boost from sales of the new Jetta. Jetta sales were up 32 percent over last October.