U.S. Auto Sales Rise 3%

Carmakers delivered 1.45 million vehicles in the U.S. last month compared with 1.40 million units in March 2012, according to Autodata Corp.March marked the highest single-month volume since August 2007.

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Carmakers delivered 1.45 million vehicles in the U.S. last month compared with 1.40 million units in March 2012, according to Autodata Corp.

March marked the highest single-month volume since August 2007. Last month’s sales pace equates to an annual rate of 15.27 million vehicles compared with 14.14 million units a year earlier.

The advance was driven by 6% growth in demand for domestic and European brands. Sales of Asian marques inched up less than 1%.

Light truck volume climbed 9% to 699,200 units last month, led by 14% increases for both fullsize pickup trucks (166,100 units) and crossover vehicles (307,800 units). Passenger car demand dipped 1% to 753,700 units.

Sales of domestic makes rose to 649,400 vehicles from 613,600 units a year earlier, buoyed by double-digit gains in truck volume for Ford and General Motors. American makes hiked their market share by one point to 44.7%, all of it garnered from Asian makes.

Overall March deliveries advanced 6% at both GM and Ford to 246,000 vehicles and 235,600 units, respectively. Chrysler sales grew 5% to 167,800 units as a 22% surge in car sales offset a 2% slip in truck sales.

U.S. volume for Asian automakers edged up 4,900 units to 673,200 vehicles last month, thanks to a 7% increase to 136,000 units at Honda. Deliveries rose 1% at both Toyota and Nissan to 205,300 units and 137,700 units, respectively. Hyundai and affiliate Kia posted declines of 2% to 68,300 vehicles and 15% to 49,100 units.

Demand for European brands climbed 6% to 130,300 vehicles in March, including 3% growth to 37,300 units at Volkswagen.

Many luxury marques posted strong U.S. advances, with Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche setting March records. Gainers included BMW (+13% to 27,100 vehicles), Mercedes (+7% to 24,600 units), Lexus (+15% to 23,200 units), Audi (+14% to 13,300 units) and Porsche (+42% to 3,500 units.)