11/03/2015

The U.S. auto industry on Tuesday was on its way to reporting another month of booming sales in October, despite concerns about a slowdown in consumer spending and stagnant wages.

"October was a huge month for the industry, smashing expectations and continuing its hot streak,” said Bill Fay, Toyota's U.S. general manager.

Truck and SUV sales are expected to show big gains in October as low gasoline prices and low interest rates continue to attract consumers, analysts said.

But U.S. economic data also suggests consumer spending lost momentum at the end of the third quarter, with consumption in September posting its smallest increase in eight months. Personal incomes also barely rose that month.

Analysts have said they expect October sales to be between 8 percent and 12 percent higher than last year, and many expect last month's sales to be the highest since 2001, when automakers offered 0 percent financing in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

A Reuters poll of 45 economists showed expectations of a seasonally adjusted annualized sales rate of 17.7 million vehicles for October.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAU.N)(FCHA.MI) said the U.S. auto industry's sales for last month will top 18 million on an annualized basis, well above the expectations of industry analysts.

Fiat Chrysler reported its 67th straight month of year-over-year gains, selling 195,545 vehicles in October, up 14.7 percent from a year earlier.

The company's sales were led by a 33 percent increase for its Jeep brand. Fiat Chrysler's car sales fell 3 percent, but its SUV and truck sales rose 20 percent.

Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T)(TM.N) said it sold more than 200,000 vehicles in October, which would be a double-digit rise from the 180,580 vehicles sold in the same period last year. Toyota did not give a specific sales figure, and said it would issue one later on Tuesday.

Nissan Motor Co (7201.T) said its U.S. sales rose 12.5 percent to 116,047 vehicles in October, led by its Rogue small SUV, which had a 70 percent increase to nearly 25,000. The company's best-selling car, the Altima sedan, had sales of nearly 21,000, but that was down 11 percent from a year ago. Mitsubishi Motors Corp (7211.T) reported record October sales in the United States, up 19.8 percent at 7,426 vehicles from last year. 

By Bernie Woodall - Reuters (Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Paul Simao)