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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.

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.)