US auto sales jump last month at Ford, Nissan, Fiat Chrysler

Major automakers booked double-digit sales gains last month in the US market, helped by strong growth from key brands like Jeep and a later Labor Day holiday.

Ford saw 23 percent sales growth in September, Nissan surged 18 percent, and Fiat Chrysler's US sales jumped nearly 14 percent. Sales at General Motors, meanwhile, rose 12 percent.

Analysts expected most automakers to report strong results, partly because of the later holiday. Labor Day is typically one of the biggest sales weekends of the year as dealers hold model year-end clearance sales. Last year, it was counted as part of August sales. This year it's in September.

Kelly Blue Book forecast a 12 percent increase in sales from a year ago to 1.39 million cars and trucks.

The US market has remained a bright spot for automakers as the Chinese economy slows. China is still the No. 1 market globally.

Ford Motor Co. said Thursday that it sold 221,599 vehicles last month, with its popular F-Series climbing 16 percent to more than 69,000 trucks. Under the Ford brand, Fusion sales rose 15 percent to nearly 25,000.

Nissan total sales rose to 121,782, helped by a 30 percent increase for its Infiniti luxury brand.

Fiat Chrysler sold more than 193,000 vehicles in what the company described as its best September since 2000.

The carmaker said September Jeep sales rose 40 percent in the brand's third-best month ever. Gains from that brand offset slower growth elsewhere. Sales for the company's Ram and Dodge brands climbed 4 percent and 3 percent, respectively.

General Motors Co. sold 251,310 vehicles in September. Total Chevrolet sales rose 11 percent, and the company said GMC's 24 percent increase represented its best September result since 2004.

"The economy still has room to grow and so do auto sales, particularly now that the (millennials) are entering the workforce and starting households," said GM's chief economist, Mustafa Mohatarem, in a statement from the company.

Shares of Ford inched up six cents to $13.63 Thursday morning, GM climbed 43 cents to $30.45, and US-traded shares of Fiat Chrysler rose 18 cents to $13.39. Broader indexes slipped in morning trading.