Mar. 01 - Auto sales, an early indicator of consumer spending, are above a seasonally adjusted rate of 15 million for a fourth straight month, the first time since early 2008. Bobbi Rebell reports.
25-year auto industry vet John LaSorsa is having a great time selling cars these days- sales are up at his two New York General Motors dealerships. And customers who want cars- can now get the money to buy them. SOUNDBITE: JOHN LASORSA, CEO, LASORSA AUTO GROUP (ENGLISH) SAYING: "The financing has freed up. That's a big part of it. During the economic turmoil we had some difficulty getting customers credit but now that is not an issue" He's not alone- post bankruptcy, GM dealers are a much happier group- sales last month were up 7 percent- more than expected. Thanks to that more accessible financing- which is helping the entire industry. Ford sales were weaker than expected but still up 9 percent- and Fiat controlled Chrysler's were up 4 percent, also a bit lower than forecasts. But overall, U.S. auto sales were strong for the 4th month in a row- and at an annualized sales rate not seen since early 2008. REPORTER BRIDGE: BOBBI REBELL, REUTERS REPORTER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "Truck sales have been in overdrive. General Motors's Chevy Silverado pickup truck - up nearly 30 percent last month." That's in part because housing has been hot- and all that construction means more pickup trucks. The industry is also making a lot of cars and trucks that people really like: Edmunds.com's Jeremy Anwyl: SOUNDBITE: JEREMY ANWYL, VICE CHAIRMAN. EDMUNDS.COM (ENGLISH) SAYING: "What's really been fueling sales has been just a non-stop series of new products that are being introduced by all the different car companies and the new products are actually pretty exciting they offer a lot of new features, they are relatively competitively priced without a lot of incentives and that's what's been keeping sales buoyed. " And that means dealers like LaSorsa don't have to wheel and deal like in the past. SOUNDBITE: JOHN LASORSA, CEO, LASORSA AUTO GROUP (ENGLISH) SAYING: "There are much less incentives needed for cars. I mean the transition- the suggested retail price is more realistic so the margin is less and customers understand that." LaSorsa is optimistic new car sales will stay on track- the average vehicle is 11 years old and pushing past the point of repair - and that demand should help overshadow worries of forced spending cuts out of Washington.