Fiat Chrysler, Nissan, GM, Ford post big sales gains

DETROIT -- General Motors (GM), Ford (F), Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) and Nissan (NYANY) each reported double-digit U.S. sales gains last month, with manufacturer incentives, along with low gasoline prices and interest rates among the factors as the auto industry steered toward its best October in 14 years.

GM said that sales rose almost 16 percent in its most lucrative market, while Ford reported a 13 percent gain. Nissan sales rose 12.5 percent over a year ago, while Fiat Chrysler's were up nearly 15 percent.

All major automakers report U.S. sales figures on Tuesday, and car buying site TrueCar.com predicted that October sales would rise 11.4 percent to 1.4 million. That would be the best October since 2001, when zero-percent financing after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks pushed sales to 1.6 million, according to the LMC Automotive forecasting firm.

The increase would make October the third month this year to see double-digit gains from a year ago, after September and January.

GM says it sold almost 263,000 vehicles last month, led by the Chevrolet Silverado pickup with a 10 percent increase to nearly 52,000.

Chevrolet brand sales rose nearly 18 percent for its best October in 11 years. GMC and Cadillac also posted double-digit gains, while Buick sales fell slightly.

Ford Motor Co.'s sales jumped to nearly 214,000. The recently updated Edge SUV saw big gains, while sales of the sporty Mustang more than doubled. Ford's biggest seller, the F-Series pickup, rose 3 percent to 65,500. But sales were down 4.5 percent at Ford's luxury Lincoln brand.

It was Fiat Chrysler's strongest October since 2001 with sales of about 196,000, led by the booming Jeep brand with a 33 percent increase. Sales were just over 170,000 a year ago.

At Nissan, sales rose to just over 116,000 from 103,000 a year ago, led by the Nissan Rogue small crossover SUV, with sales up 70 percent to almost 25,000.

Overall, some of the gains were likely due to increased incentives as automakers tried to clear 2015 models off dealer lots. TrueCar said automakers spent 14.1 percent more than last October on cash-back promotions and other deals. Chevrolet was offering zero-percent financing for up to 72 months on a 2015 Camaro, while Toyota advertised $2,000 cash back on a 2015 Avalon sedan.

There were other favorable factors. Interest rates remained at record lows last month, and gas prices fell. The national average gas price reached an eight-month low of $2.20 per gallon in the last week of October, down 85 cents from the previous year. That's putting a lot more money in car buyers' pockets. Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service, said U.S. motorists spent $27.8 billion on gasoline last month, down 29 percent from last October.

October sales also were boosted by five weekends instead of the normal four. Saturday is usually the biggest day of the week for auto dealers.