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Detroit - Ford, GM, Chrysler and Nissan all reported double-digit U.S. sales increases last month, signaling the best April for car and truck sales in six years.
A rebound in pickup truck sales led the way, especially for the Detroit automakers. Small businesses are replacing aging trucks that they've kept since the Great Recession.
Ford's sales increased 18 percent, with the F-Series pickup gaining 24 percent. At Chrysler, sales rose 11 percent, led by the Ram pickup, with a 49 percent sales increase. GM also saw an 11 percent sales jump, with Chevrolet Silverado pickup sales rising 28 percent for the month.
Nissan reported a 23 percent sales gain over April of 2012. The only laggards were Toyota, with a sales decline of 1 percent, and Volkswagen, with a drop of 10 percent.
Americans continue to buy new cars and trucks even though unemployment remains high. All automakers report monthly sales Wednesday, and industry analysts expect an overall increase of around 10 percent over April of last year. That would make it the best April since 2007.
Chrysler Group LLC said it sold 156,698 cars and trucks last month. Sales of the Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV increased 27 percent. Dodge brand sales rose 18 percent, with the Dart compact car posting its best month ever with sales of nearly 8,100. But the Chrysler brand struggled, with sales falling 13 percent.
Ford Motor Co. sold 212,584 cars and trucks. The F-series pickup remains the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. Sales totaled 59,000 in April. And sales of the redesigned Escape SUV rose 52 percent.
General Motors Co. reported sales of 237,646 cars and trucks. Even with gas prices on the decline, compact cars remain popular. Sales of the Chevy Cruze rose 21 percent.
Nissan sales were boosted by demand for the recently redesigned Altima midsize car and Sentra compact.
VW's sales drop was led by its top-seller, the Passat midsize car, which fell 10 percent.
Despite a slight drop, Toyota was optimistic. Sales chief Bill Fay said the overall market increase is a good sign for all automakers, "especially with new products, low interest rates and plenty of pent-up demand."