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A mixed picture for US cars sales in October

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Chicago (AFP)

The American automobile market offered a mixed picture in October, with some companies maintaining a sales upswing thanks to hurricane recovery, while others returned to declines.

Auto giants General Motors (GM) and Fiat Chrysler (FCA US) on Tuesday reported fewer units sold last month, while Ford, Nissan and Toyota saw gains thanks to truck sales.

Discounts abounded in October and the average sale price for a new vehicle remained relatively flat.

That combination signaled "headwinds for the new-vehicle market as 2017 comes to an end," industry research firm Kelley Blue Book said.

The industry struggled to maintain momentum at the end of a year that has seen sales steadily decline following seven straight years of growth and a record 2016.

Last month, almost all major car makers enjoyed sales gains as drivers in Texas and Florida affected by hurricanes replaced ruined vehicles.

But that momentum did not continue industry-wide in October. Forecasters expected an overall sales decline for the month once all car companies report their monthly results Tuesday.

GM was down 2.2 percent from the year-ago period, blaming weak car sales and one fewer selling day this October compared to last.

FCA US had another bad month, with sales falling 13 percent. The company blamed much of that on a planned drawdown of fleet sales, but its retail sales were also down four percent.

The company's popular Jeep SUV brand experienced retail sales gains, as did its Ram pickup truck. But those gains were not enough to offset major losses in Chrysler, Dodge and Fiat brands.

Ford's F-Series pickup trucks helped the company reach 6.2 percent sales gains. Both fleet and retail sales were up.

Nissan experienced an impressive 8.4 percent increase, while Toyota eked out a 1.1 percent rise.

The F-Series trucks are popular in the Houston, Texas area where Hurricane Harvey flooding destroyed many vehicles, according to analysts.

Ford sold 15.9 percent more of the trucks compared to last October, even with average transaction prices for the vehicles up $4,000 to $47,300.

SUVs and pickup trucks helped Toyota offset a 14.5 percent decline in its car sales. The company's RAV4 SUV remained its most popular offering, but Camry and Corolla sedans remained popular even if selling less than last year.

Nissan sold more trucks as well as sedans. Its Rogue SUV remained by far its most popular offering. But, Sentra small sedans were the second most popular and experienced a 29.5 percent sales gain.

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