America's love affair with SUVs and trucks continued in March as General Motors, Honda and Nissan reported sales increases for both. But that's being offset by falling car sales, pushing overall sales for Honda and Ford down compared with last year.
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Ford experienced a big sales drop for the month, falling 7.5 percent from March of 2015. Honda's sales also were off, by 2 percent. GM reported nearly a 2 percent gain, while Nissan sales were up just over 3 percent.
Most major automakers report sales through the day on Monday. Despite falling sales for Honda and Ford, industry analysts expect a 2 percent to 3 percent increase for the industry overall in March, the first monthly sales jump this year, and possibly the best March in 17 years.
At Ford, car sales fell a staggering 24 percent, due in part to big fleet sales reported in March of last year. SUV sales fell 3 percent, but truck sales rose 2.5 percent, led by a 10 percent increase sales of the F-Series pickup, the top-selling vehicle in America.
General Motors, the nation's top-selling automaker, reported a 2 percent gain led by small and midsize SUVs with a 21 percent increase. Truck sales rose 0.5 percent. Sales of most GM cars were down, except for the compact Cruze, with sales nearly doubling from last year. Chevrolet Silverado pickup sales fell nearly 12 percent, but that was offset by smaller SUVs. For example, the Buick Encore compact SUV saw a 29 percent increase.
Honda said its March sales fell just under 1 percent, dragged down by sagging demand for its Acura luxury brand. Car sales were off 8.7 percent, while truck and SUV sales rose 8.4 percent. Honda brand sales were up 2 percent, and Acura sales down more than 21 percent. The company sold nearly 33,000 CR-V small SUVs, a 23 percent gain.
Nissan's overall sales rose 3.2 percent with trucks and SUVs rising 29 percent for the Nissan and Infiniti brands combined. Nissan was once again led by the Rogue small SUV, which set a March sales record of nearly 40,000 vehicles for a 20 percent increase. Car sales fell 15 percent.
By TOM KRISHER, AP Auto Writer