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U.S. April auto sales on pace for new record for the month


DETROIT  - U.S. auto sales in April were on course to set a new high for the month on Tuesday, with the industry also on pace to top the annual record set last year.

General Motors Co estimated the seasonally adjusted annualized rate for April auto sales will be 17.6 million vehicles, more than the 17.5 million vehicles expected by analysts polled by Reuters.

In April, U.S. sales for Ford Motor Co, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Nissan Motor Co each beat analysts' expectations. Heading into Tuesday's sales reports by major automakers, Wall Street was already predicting higher monthly sales than the record set in April 2005.

GM's monthly sales fell 3.5 percent, more than analysts expected, but the company said it is deliberately cutting incentives that sap the bottom line, and that sales of pickup trucks remained strong.

Ford's April sales totaled 231,316, up 4 percent from a year earlier as the No. 2 U.S. automaker continued to set records for both pickup trucks and SUVs for the month.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' sales jumped 6 percent, while Nissan recorded a 13 percent gain as the Japanese automaker showed strong car sales in the face of increased consumer desire for SUVs and trucks.

"Consumer preference for SUVs and pickup trucks continued unabated in April and helped to propel us to our strongest April sales in 11 years," said Reid Bigland, head of sales for Fiat Chrysler in North America.

Last year, U.S. industry sales were a record 17.4 million vehicles, according to WardsAuto, which supplies the U.S. government with industry sales information.

Each month, auto sales are an early indicator of U.S. consumer spending, and the auto industry has generally been ahead of the overall economy since a recovery for the industry began after sales hit a bottom in 2009.