DETROIT — The U.S. auto industry is on track for a record year of sales, General Motors Company said Tuesday, as the country’s top automaker and its rivals reported October sales that far exceeded expectations.
GM said the six-month rolling average for U.S. auto sales is 17.8 million on an annualized basis, which means the industry is on its way to topping the 1999 annual sales record.
October sales will be about 18.2 million vehicles on an annualized basis. That is the highest level since 2001, when automakers offered 0 percent financing in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, the company said.
In 2009, at the depth of the Great Recession, U.S. auto sales dipped to 10.4 million vehicles.
Analysts had forecasted October sales to be between 8 percent and 12 percent higher than last year. A Reuters poll of 45 economists showed expectations of a seasonally adjusted annualized sales rate of 17.7 million vehicles for last month.
“October was a huge month for the industry, smashing expectations and continuing its hot streak,” said Bill Fay, Toyota’s U.S. general manager.
The high October sales numbers materialized despite concerns about stagnant wages and a slowdown in consumer spending.
U.S. economic data suggests consumer spending lost momentum at the end of the third quarter, with consumption in September posting its smallest increase in eight months. Personal incomes also barely rose that month.
GM said its sales rose 16 percent to 262,993 vehicles last month, marking its best October since 2004. GM shares dipped 4 cents to $35.53 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Ford Motor Company, number two in the U.S. auto market by sales, reported it sold 213,938 vehicles last month, a 13 percent rise from the same period last year. Ford’s U.S. sales chief, Mark LaNeve, said the company commanded record average selling prices for its vehicles, at $34,600 per vehicle.
Ford shares were up 3 cents at $14.78 on the NYSE.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles reported its 67th straight month of year-over-year gains, selling 195,545 vehicles in October, up 14.7 percent from a year earlier.
The company’s sales were led by a 33 percent increase for its Jeep brand. Fiat Chrysler’s car sales fell 3 percent, but its SUV and truck sales rose 20 percent.
Toyota Motor Corporation said it sold more than 200,000 vehicles in October, which would be a double-digit rise from the 180,580 vehicles sold in the same period last year.
Nissan Motor Company said its U.S. sales rose 12.5 percent to 116,047 vehicles in October, led by its Rogue small SUV, which had a 70 percent increase to nearly 25,000.
The company’s best-selling car, the Altima sedan, had sales of nearly 21,000, down 11 percent from a year ago.