Consumer demand for new cars shows no signs of letting up, according to sales numbers released Tuesday.
The picture was positive for domestic automakers: General Motors's sales were up 12 percent for March, while Ford and Chrysler (now controlled by Fiat) saw a 5 percent and 34 percent uptick in domestic sales, respectively. Ford also saw record sales of fuel-efficient models such as the Focus.
AutoNation, the country's largest auto retailer, reported 25,489 new cars sold. The group's sales were up 13 percent in the first quarter. As a result of the strong sales, AutoNation now says it expects the auto industry to sell between 14.4 million and 14.7 million cars in 2012.
AutoNation also reported a 10 percent jump in imports, as well as sales of luxury brands. Toyota saw a 20 percent uptick in sales, while Mercedes saw an 18 percent increase.
The average U.S. car is 10.8 years old, and AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson attributes the spike in sales to pent-up demand. As consumers think about replacing their old cars, rising gas prices are actually accelerating the move towards newer, more fuel-efficient vehicles, he said.
“The need is bringing them in, and they see the big gain that’s available to them in fuel efficiency since the last time they looked,” Jackson said. “And they say that’s a good reason to buy.”
Perhaps the ever-increasing price of gas will ultimately help get some of our old gas guzzlers off the road.