DETROIT – The government shutdown dampened – but didnt stall – Americans demand for new cars and trucks.
The 16-day shutdown slowed U.S. auto sales in the first two weeks of October, but they picked up speed in the last two weeks of the month. Sales rose 11 percent to 1.2 million vehicles.
General Motors, Ford, Nissan and Chrysler all recorded double-digit sales gains, while Toyota, Honda and Hyundai saw smaller increases. Of major automakers, only Volkswagens sales fell.
Stable fuel prices, low interest rates and the increased availability of credit pushed people to buy regardless of the political wrangling, said Kurt McNeil, GMs vice president of U.S. sales.
All those things that have been driving the economy? Theyre still there, he said.
Pickup trucks sold well as business improved for contractors and other workers. Sales of the Chevrolet Silverado, GMs top-selling vehicle, jumped 10 percent to nearly 43,000. The vehicles are made in the Allen County truck assembly plant.
Chryslers Ram truck was up 18 percent, and sales of Fords F-Series pickups rose 13 percent and topped 60,000 for the sixth month in a row.
SUV sales were also strong. Sales of Nissans Pathfinder, which was recently redesigned, nearly doubled from last October. Sales of the Chevrolet large SUVs Tahoe and Suburban jumped more than 50 percent.
GMs sales rose 16 percent overall, with increases in all of its brands. GMs revamped Chevrolet Malibu midsize car was up 64 percent, while sales of the Cadillac ATS small car more than doubled.
The weak spot in sales for all major automakers was small cars and hybrids, which have been struggling to win buyers as gas prices fall. Gas prices averaged $3.27 a gallon at the end of October, the lowest level of the year.
Toyota Prius hybrid sales fell 7 percent, while the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid was down 32 percent.
Sales of Fords Focus small car were down 17 percent, while its C-Max small hybrid fell 20 percent. Ford recently announced plans to idle the Michigan factory where those vehicles are made for two weeks this fall because of weak demand.
Stable gas prices, cheap financing and sweet lease deals have made larger vehicles more affordable, said Jesse Toprak, an analyst with TrueCar.com, an auto pricing website.