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Car sales rise in September, but truck sales stumble

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Chrysler reported a 12 percent increase in sales last month, its best September showing in five years.

UPDATED 12: 42 p.m. EDT: The Big Three U.S. automakers, Ford, Chrysler and GM, reported a mixed bag of sales in September on Tuesday, with car sales revving up, but truck sales moving into lower gear.

Japanese automaker Toyota reported a large sales increase.

Of the three largest U.S. automakers, Chrysler fared the best, posting a nearly 12 percent rise in sales last month, its best September in five years. Chrysler said its increase was due to new models, low interest rates and a stable U.S. economy. It sold 142,000 vehicles, led by the Dodge Avenger midsize sedan, which saw sales jump 89 percent from a year earlier.

GM reported a 1.5 percent increase in sales, as a big jump in car demand was offset by falling truck sales. Ford seemed to suffer from the same issue; it posted flat sales as truck sales fell 7.6 percent, largely because of the discontinuation of the Ranger small pickup.

The Ranger was a strong seller last September. Sales of the F-Series large pickup were up 1 percent over last year.

Ford said sales of SUVs were up 8.7 percent. The new Ford Escape small SUV saw a 14.5 percent jump and the Explorer large SUV was up 19 percent.

Car sales were up 1.6 percent, led by strong sales of the Ford Focus. Sales of the outgoing Fusion midsize sedan dropped 37 percent as Ford began shipping a new version of the Fusion to dealerships.

GM said last month was its best September since 2008. The company said new models boosted car sales by 29 percent. But sales of the Chevrolet Silverado, GM's top-selling vehicle, fell almost 17 percent from a year ago.

GM sold more than 210,000 vehicles in September. It was led by the Chevrolet Cruze compact car with a 43 percent increase. Chevrolet Sonic subcompact sales were five times September of last year.

"Passenger cars have been the launch point for a broad and deep GM product offensive," said Kurt McNeil, vice president of U.S. sales operations.

The company expects total U.S. auto sales to hit an annual rate of 14.5 million for September. That would make it the second-best month of the year. Chrysler estimated U.S. industry sales in September, including medium and heavy trucks, would reach a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 14.9 million.

Meanwhile, Toyota said vehicle sales rose 41.5 percent to 171,190 last month, besting its 32 percent in gains year-to-date. The results reflect Toyota's recovery from inventory shortages last year after the March 2011 earthquake in Japan.

Analysts forecast a 14.5 million sales pace in September, according to a Reuters poll. Attractive financing offers, cash incentives on trucks and pent-up demand fueled September sales.

Last month, incentives on trucks averaged more than $3,000 a vehicle compared with $1,888 for cars, according to TrueCar.com.

"Going forward with our current product lineup, record-low interest rates and a stable U.S. economy, we remain optimistic about the health of the U.S. new vehicle sales industry and our position in it," Reid Bigland, head of U.S. sales for Chrysler, said in a statement.

Sales of the company's new Dodge Dart, introduced earlier this year, continue to rise. Chrysler said it sold 5,235 Darts in September, a 72-percent jump from August.

Fiat brand sales totaled 4,176, the highest monthly mark ever in the United States, Chrysler said.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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