Chrysler Boosts Hope for Broad Auto Recovery

Chrsyler Group LLC reported auto sales that were 34 percent higher in March than a year earlier. It was the 24th consecutive month that the No. 3 U.S. automaker showed a year-on-year sales gain. Chrysler is the first major automaker to report sales or a month expected to show signs of a robust recovery in the auto industry. Other major automakers will report results later on Tuesday.

Analysts expect an annualized sales rate for March of 14.74 million vehicles. Last year, March’s annualized sales rate was 13.1 million vehicles. Analysts say pent-up demand, easier credit, more fuel-efficient offerings, and mild Winter weather helped boost sales last month.

Ford (NYSE:F) is projected to report a 5 percent sales gain over March 2011, and will show the best new-vehicle sales in the U.S. in five years, Mark Fields, Ford Americas president, told CNBC. General Motors (NYSE:GM) is expected to show a rise in March sales of more than 20 percent over a weak March 2011. Toyota (NYSE:TM) is expected to rise as much as 22 percent, according to auto consultant Edmunds.com.

To contact the reporter on this story: Emily Knapp at staff.writers@wallstcheatsheet.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Damien Hoffman at editors@wallstcheatsheet.com

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