Chrysler Shows 13 Percent Increase In March U.S. Auto Sales


Chrysler Group, a unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, beat expectations with a 13 percent rise in March auto sales in its home U.S. market.

U.S. auto sales leader General Motors Co announced it will delay by several hours its March U.S. sales statement because of computer glitches. The statement was scheduled to be released at 9:30 a.m. (1330 GMT).

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Industry research firm forecast GM's U.S. sales for March rose 0.5 percent.

Most of the attention on GM will be focused on Chief Executive Mary Barra's appearance Tuesday at a Congressional hearing regarding the company's slow response to defective ignition switches, blamed for at least 13 deaths.

Forty analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expect an annualized selling rate of 15.8 million vehicles, or about a 2 percent increase in sales from last March. LMC Automotive two weeks ago lowered its 2014 U.S. sales forecast to 16.1 million from 16.2 million vehicles.

Each month, auto sales are an early indicator of U.S. consumer spending. January and February sales were slowed by massive snowstorms and cold temperatures over much of the United States.

"Despite a noticeable improvement from the first two months of the year, this may disappoint some investors expecting a sharp rebound on the back of pent-up demand, and could call into question growth forecasts for 2014," said Joseph Amaturo, analyst with The Buckingham Research Group.

Chrysler - which is No. 4 in the U.S. market behind GM, Ford Motor Co and Toyota Motor Corp - relied on hefty sales of its Ram trucks and Jeep Cherokee SUV, which both showed 26 percent sales jumps from a year ago.

Edmunds had expected Chrysler sales to rise 11 percent.

Cherokee SUV sales of nearly 14,000 were 10 times year-ago sales of the vehicle it replaced in the automaker's lineup, the Jeep Liberty SUV.

Fiat U.S. sales rose 24 percent to 4,738 vehicles, in part because of the introduction of a second vehicle to its U.S. sales lineup, the 500L, which is longer than the initial car offering, the Fiat 500 subcompact.

Chrysler was the first major automaker to report U.S. March sales on Tuesday.