GM Posts First Sales Gain in Two Years

General Motors (GM) reported its first monthly U.S. Sales gain in almost two years. Ford and Toyota also posted gains — which indicates the auto industry is working its way out of a year-long slump.

Demand for new cars such as the Chevy Malibu and Cadillac CTS, long with crossover SUVs such as the Buick Enclave, fueled better October results for GM with sales up 4.7 percent. Sales of the much-anticipated, all-new 2010 Buick LaCrosse, which is hitting showrooms right about now, are also expected to keep GM on an upward trend.

Meanwhile, in Dearborn, rival Ford Motor Co. saw overall sales rise 11 percent from October 2008, on the strength of strong sales of the newly-redesigned Taurus, Taurus SHO, and Lincoln MKT, along with healthy numbers for the F-150 pickup — the all-time, overall vehicle sales leader for more than 30 years. Fuel-efficient models like the Ford Fusion sedan and Escape SUV are also selling very well, with both notching jumps of around 25 percent, while crossovers climbed a hefty 23 percent. Ford has also benefited from consumer goodwill because it didn’t take government bailout money or go into bankruptcy, as General Motors Chrysler did.

More than 80 percent of Ford’s sales last month came from 2010 models, which also helped the company lower its incentives — in line with the industry, which spent less to give car buyers big rebates. Automakers focused on clearing out old inventory and on selling 2010 models, which are not discounted as heavily.

In less rosy news, Toyota reported sales edging up less than a percent. However, Japanese competitor Subaru reported October auto sales surging 41 percent on the backs of strong sales of its Outback and Forester models, and South Korea-based Hyundai said its sales jumped 49 percent to 31,005 vehicles.

Chrysler Group LLC, maker of Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Dodge Ram truck, which had witnessed sales fall 30 percent in September, improved, selling 65,803 vehicles last month. That’s a gain of 6 percent over September, when sales slumped because dealerships had few popular models left in showrooms to offer. The automaker, which is announcing a new product strategy tomorrow (Nov. 4) is aiming to show steady improvement from month to month. Chrysler will offer a slew of new incentive programs, along with 0 percent financing for up to 48 months on all its vehicles, and a no-cost maintenance and service program on its Jeep and Chrysler brands. Buyers also can opt for $2,500 off their purchase if they don’t take the no-interest financing. The deals will run until Nov. 30.

Automakers have stated repeatedly that October would be the true test of the strength of the auto market after the highly volatile impact of the government’s Cash for Clunkers program. The industry staggered through a tough September, hurt by the collapse of demand following the clunker rebates that fueled a sales surge over the summer. The mood was a sharp contrast to a year ago, when consumers were scared away from showrooms by the early effects of the financial meltdown and credit freeze. Ford’s top economist Emily Kolinski Morris said October sales signal a real underlying demand for new vehicles after the distorting effects of the clunkers program. The economy, she said, is “…in transition from recession to recovery. We expect consumers to remain cautious as the recovery continues,” she told analysts and reporters during an investor conference call.