DETROIT — Big discounts on pickup trucks helped keep U.S. auto sales strong in September.
The pace was expected to slow from a blistering August, which was the best month for the industry in eight years. August got a boost from 2014 model year clearance sales and Labor Day promotions.
But September held its own, with analysts expecting sales to rise around 10 percent from a year ago.
While August was fueled by discounts on midsize cars, September saw good deals on pickup trucks. General Motors Co. and Chrysler hoped to take advantage of Ford, which temporarily closed a truck factory to retool for its new aluminum-clad F-150. Ford cut back on discounts in order to keep more trucks in stock during the shutdown.
Ford Motor Co. felt some pain as a result. Ford's sales dropped 3 percent to 180,175, and F-Series truck sales were down 1 percent to 59,863. It was the first time in seven months that Ford's monthly truck sales have dropped below 60,000.
Ford saw a 9 percent increase in Fusion sedan sales, but otherwise its car sales were down. Sales of the Escape small SUV also fell 4 percent.
Ram pickup sales helped Chrysler Group's sales jump 19 percent for the month. Chrysler sold 169,890 cars and trucks, its best September since 2005.
Ram truck sales rose 30 percent to 36,612. Chrysler raised incentives on its Ram trucks by 22 percent from a year ago to $4,640, according to data collected by J.D. Power and Associates for the first three weeks of the month. Ford dropped its F-Series incentives by 4 percent to $4,332.
Cherokee sales rose to 14,639, surpassing the bigger Grand Cherokee and helping the Jeep brand increase sales by 47 percent over last September.
GM was expected to lead the way on incentives, and it should pay off in big sales gains. Barclays analyst Brian Johnson expects GM to add nearly a full point of market share to 18.1 percent.
GM spent just under $5,000 in incentives per pickup, about 30 percent, or $1,140, higher than a year ago, according to J.D. Power.
"It should be should be a big month for pickup trucks," said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of auto sales forecasting for LMC Automotive, an industry consulting firm. "The main driver is the deal."
Also fueling the higher sales are crossover SUVs such as the Cherokee, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, Schuster said.
Other automakers reporting Wednesday:
— Nissan sales rose 18.5 percent to 102,955. Sales of the newly revamped Rogue crossover jumped 52 percent, while sales of the electric Leaf were up 47 percent.