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Chrysler Group posted a 12 percent increase in August U.S. sales with robust retail volume and demand for cars and large pickups fueling the automaker’s 41st consecutive monthly gain.

Ford Motor Co. reported a 12 percent increase in August sales, with car and truck volume rising 18 percent, offsetting a slight dip in crossover deliveries. Small car sales climbed 30 percent and F series deliveries rose 22 percent to 71,115 units.

Sales rose 13 percent at the Ford division and 1 percent at Lincoln.

Ford said its retail sales were especially strong last month, advancing 20 percent, with retail deliveries of cars up 15 percent, utilities up 16 percent and trucks up 30 percent.

The company said today it planned to boost fourth quarter North American output 7 percent to 785,000 light vehicles.

The Ram brand, with sales up 29 percent, and Dodge, with a 12 percent increase in deliveries, led the gains for Chrysler.

Overall, Chrysler’s truck sales rose 12 percent last month, with Ram pickup demand surging 31 percent to 33,009 and Jeep volume rising 8 percent.

Chrysler said its car sales rose 11 percent, helped by the Dodge Chargerand Dart, and record monthly sales of nearly 4,200 at the Fiat brand.

“Last month we achieved our strongest retail sales in the past 60 months,” Reid Bigland, head of U.S. sales for Chrysler Group, said in a statement. “All aspects of our business continue to improve.”

The average transaction price of a Chrysler Group vehicle sold in August was a record $30,317, reflecting strong retail sales of the Ram pickup and Jeep lineup, TrueCar estimated today.

Other automakers are scheduled to report August sales later today, with Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. forecast to post the biggest gains, analysts say.

Toyota Motor Corp. expects to report a 20 percent gain in U.S. retail sales at the Toyota division, led by the Prius family of hybrids and the Camry sedan, Bloomberg reported late Tuesday, citing a Toyota spokeswoman.

Dealers and automakers say sales were strong over the Labor Day holiday weekend, which this year covered the end of August. The activity was spurred by deals on remaining 2013 models and a few 2014 models.

Analysts project that August sales rose 14 percent from a year earlier to 1.47 million units, based on the average of 10 estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

The seasonally adjusted annual sales rate is forecast at 15.8 million, based on the average of 17 analysts’ estimates. That would match July’s SAAR and be up from 14.5 million a year earlier.

Chrysler Group today estimated the August SAAR at 16.1 million, including medium and heavy-duty trucks.

August sales results are expected to keep the auto industry on pace to post the highest annual volume in six years. The SAAR has topped 15 million units each month beginning with November 2012.

Brandon Debarros, general sales manager at Metro Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram in Johnston, R.I., described August as “excellent.”

“We have been pushing a zero-financing Labor Day sale to try to liquidate the stock that we have, and it seems to have worked,” Debarros said.

At East Tennessee Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep in Crossville, Tenn., Sales Manager Brandon Letner said corporate sales helped offset a drop in retail volume.

“The no sales tax weekend that we had really helped us to get some sales that we wouldn’t have had,” Letner said, referring to a promotion whereby the dealer paid state sales taxes on new-vehicle purchases.

U.S. light-vehicle sales continue to be driven by pent-up demand as consumers replace aging vehicles. Attractive finance and leasing offers, the steadily improving economy, rising housing and construction activity, and modest employment growth are also aiding demand.

“Historically low interest rates as well as very attractive lease specials fueled by high resale values are enabling consumers to buy more expensive vehicles while still keeping payments at affordable levels,” said Jesse Toprak, senior analyst for TrueCar. “It’s a good day at the office for the manufacturers when the sales continue to grow double digits while transaction prices reach record highs.”

TrueCar estimated the average transaction price of a new light-vehicle sold in August was a record $31,252, eclipsing the average transaction price of $31,228 set in December 2012.

Large pickup, compact crossover, and compact car sales are projected to set the pace in August, Kelley Blue Book estimates.

The steady rise in sales this year has left some automakers and dealers short of certain models, and curbed sales volume at some automakers.

Inventory shortages came to a head in August, traditionally a strong sales month driven by end-of-model-year clearance sales. In a survey by RBC Capital Markets, 19 percent of dealers said inventory was too low during the month of August. That compares with 9 percent in July and 4 percent in June.

Sales of the Ford Fusion, Chevy Impala, Honda Odyssey and CR-V, Range Rover, Dodge Charger, Jeep Wrangler, and Ford Explorer have been limited by especially tight supplies in certain regions of the country, dealers and automakers say.

Brands that started August with the lowest stockpile of new models were Subaru, Land Rover, Audi, Hyundai, Lexus, Kia, and BMW, according to the Automotive News Data Center. Brands with the largest supply of new vehicles were Lincoln, Fiat, Cadillac, Buick and Ram.

Even with tight supplies, Subaru may report its best-ever U.S. sales for August, helped by new and redesigned models such as the Forester and XV Crosstrek, the company’s top executive said.

“We’re certainly expecting a terrific August, just like we had in July,” Tom Doll, president of Subaru of America, told Bloomberg Television on Tuesday. “My guess is we’re going to be somewhere north of 40,000, which for us is a big month.”

Sean Gagnier and Reuters contributed to this report.

(Ford, Chrysler sales rise 12% on large pickups, cars originally appeared on the website of Automotive News)

By David Phillips, Automotive News