Updated: September 4, 2013 1:48PM
DETROIT — Toyota, Ford, Nissan, Chrysler and General Motors all posted double-digit U.S. sales gains last month as people snapped up pickup trucks and small cars to lead the industry toward its best month in six years.
Toyota posted the biggest gain, with sales up nearly 23 percent over August of last year. Nissan sales were up 22 percent, the best August in company history. At General Motors, sales were up almost 15 percent for the company’s best month since September of 2008. Chrysler and Ford each reported 12 percent gains.
Auto stocks rose, with Ford and GM up more than 3 percent. U.S.-traded shares of the Japanese automakers all rose more than 1 percent.
Chrysler and GM each forecast that total U.S. sales in August ran at an annual rate above 16 million, a pace not seen since November of 2007, a month before the start of the Great Recession.
Mustafa Mohatarem, GM’s chief economist, predicted that rate of sales is here to stay. History, he said, shows that auto sales follow a trend, and that trend is now back above pre-recession levels.
“With the underlying economy fairly solid and with the still very high average age of the fleet, I have full expectations that we will continue to see a fairly steady industry,” Mohatarem said.
The average age of a vehicle on U.S. roads today is a record 11.4 years according to the Polk research firm. That means more people have to replace cars and trucks that they kept through the recession.
High trade-in values are allowing automakers to offer attractive low-cost lease deals. And low interest rates are giving buyers room to add options and still keep monthly payments relatively low. The industry tracking firm Experian said earlier this week that nearly 28 percent of people who financed cars in the second quarter leased them, a record high.
LMC Automotive, an industry consulting firm, is predicting that total U.S. sales last month were close to 1.5 million, about 12 percent higher than a year ago. That’s the highest number since May of 2007.
Ford sold more than 70,000 F-Series pickups last month, the second month this year that sales have topped 70,000 for the nation’s top-selling vehicle. Sales of Chrysler’s Ram pickup rose 31 percent to more than 33,000. GM’s Chevrolet Silverado was up 14 percent to nearly 44,000.
Ford reported sales of more than 221,000 vehicles. Fusion midsize car sales were up almost 14 percent to nearly 25,000.
At GM, sales rose to nearly 276,000, led by pickups and the Sonic subcompact with sales up 31 percent. The Buick and Cadillac brands posted sales increases of more than 36 percent.
Toyota passed Ford in August sales to take the No. 2 spot behind GM. Toyota sales rose to nearly 232,000 vehicles for the month.
At Nissan, the company set an August sales record at just over 120,000.
Of automakers to report sales on Wednesday, only Volkswagen posted a decline, down nearly 2 percent after posting huge gains last year.
Some Americans still find $3-plus gasoline reason to buy a small car. Others have noticed that smaller vehicles are better designed, far quieter and safer with more features, said Tom Libby, lead North American analyst for the Polk automotive research firm. Analysts from Kelley Blue Book predict that compact and subcompact cars could challenge midsize cars as the largest segment in the U.S.
“Consumers like stability,” said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of sales forecasting for LMC. Now that they’re used to higher gas prices, “it’s less of a shock than in May of 2007,” he said.