SAN FRANCISCO — U.S. automakers basked in the glow of easy year-over-year sales comparisons Friday, with Chrysler Group's 61 percent surge leading a trio of double-digit September gains.
Toyota, Honda and Nissan also joined in the industry's barrage of improved numbers. Toyota posted a 16.8 percent gain to 147,162 vehicles, while Nissan registered a 34 percent jump to 74,205.
Honda's sales rose 26.1 percent to 97,361 vehicles.
Overall, the seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales came in at 11.76 million cars and trucks, according to Autodata, up from a lowly 9.38 million a year ago, when the industry suffered from a hangover created by the cash-for-clunkers binge.
Chrysler was the biggest gainer last month. With Italy's Fiat SpA at the wheel, Chrysler said it sold 100,077 cars and trucks for the month, up from 62,197 a year earlier.
Ford reported a 46 percent surge, while General Motors came in with a 10.5 percent advance.
Paul Ballew, former GM analyst and chief economist at Nationwide, said that September results were pretty much in line with expectations and that he doesn't see much changing in the fourth quarter.
"This is a sales pattern that is very consistent with a hesitant economic backdrop," he said. "We're inching back toward more normal conditions, but the reality remains that we have a very long slog ahead of us."
Buyers remain cautious, responding to promotions and economic news, which means sales come in spurts. Still, those trends "encourage us that the buyers are out there and that the industry recovery will continue," said Bob Carter, group vice president at Toyota Motor Sales USA.
Don Johnson, GM's vice president of U.S. sales, took an upbeat but cautious stance on the current state of the industry during a conference call following the release of the monthly results.
"We still have a fairly weak housing market, and some of the economic and political uncertainties are continuing to put downward pressure on consumer confidence," he said.