Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> said that September U.S. auto sales were the highest since March 2008, before the recent recession that cut deeply into new vehicle purchases.

Toyota, which showed a gain of 41.5 percent in September auto sales from the previous year, said the industry's September sales rate will be 14.9 million on a seasonally adjusted annualized basis.

Toyota is No. 3 in the U.S. auto market in sales, behind leader General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co .

In the 10 years prior to 2008, U.S. auto sales averaged nearly 17 million in new vehicle sales a year.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Gary Hill)