GM, Ford, Toyota lead rebound in U.S. auto sales

Nathan Bomey

Ford and GM pickups, a hot Toyota SUV and Nissan's popular crossovers helped recharge U.S. auto sales in September.

The auto industry rebounded as several automakers posted significant sales gains, potentially positioning the industry for a strong end to the year after several months of year-over-year monthly declines.

Overall, U.S. auto sales rose 6.1%, compared with a year earlier, to 1.52 million vehicles, according to Autodata.

The three largest sellers in the U.S. — General Motors, Ford and Toyota — posted particularly strong months. 

Their sales rose 11.8%,14.9% and 8.9%, respectively.

GM and Ford got a big boost from sales to fleet customers, but retail sales were strong, as well.

The gains come after a prolonged period of year-over-year declines, as auto sales cooled off from consecutive years of industry records in 2015 and 2016.

Despite the solid month, the industry likely will fall short of the full-year record of 17.55 million vehicles.

Sales of profitable pickups, sport-utility vehicles and crossovers remain strong, while passenger car sales continue to struggle.

“The auto industry showed renewed strength in September," Jack Hollis, group vice president and general manager of the Toyota division, said in a statement.

The company's popular RAV4 SUV continued its hot streak, jumping 44% to 42,395, making it the automaker's most popular vehicle by more than 7,600 units.

Japanese automaker Nissan notched a 9.5% increase to 139,932 vehicles in September, reflecting a company record for the month.

Nissan's extremely popular Rogue crossover, its most popular model, jumped 47% to 38,969 vehicles.

Cars are seen at an automobile dealer in Zelienople, Pa.

For Ford and GM, pickup sales led the way.

The Ford F-series pickup, the most popular vehicle in the U.S., soared 21.4% to 82,302 units.

GM's Chevrolet Silverado rose 21.7% to 55,236 vehicles, lifting Chevrolet to a 17.2% increase.

Italian-American automaker Fiat Chrysler recorded a 10.1% sales decline for the month.

Fiat Chrysler has been aggressively slashing its reliance upon sales to less-profitable fleet customers. Retail sales rose 0.3% and fleet sales declined 41%.

U.S. sales of German automaker Volkswagen's namesake brand jumped 33.2%, and the company's luxury Audi brand rose 9.6%.

Japanese automaker Honda posted a 6.8% increase to 142,722 units.

Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.