Car makers have plenty of reasons to celebrate in the U.S. this year.
Last month, American consumers purchased 1.5 million cars and trucks. That marked a 17% sales jump compared to the same time last year. It also represents an annualized sales rate of 16.09 million vehicles, the highest sales pace since before the start of the financial crisis, the Wall Street Journal notes.
Surging sales have lifted the share price of both General Motors (GM) and Ford (F). Chrysler, now owned by Italy’s Fiat (FIATY) is also seeing rising sales. Strong U.S. demand is helping offset falling demand in Europe.
The good news stands in contrast to the situation car makers faced just five years ago, when consumers, stricken by the financial downturn held off on new car purchases, sending GM and Chrysler into tailspins that resulting in government bailouts.
Automakers pared their payrolls and killed off brands, including Hummer, Pontiac, Saturn and Mercury. Unions took wage and benefit cuts. Those changes made U.S. car makers leaner and more nimble, allowing them to respond more quickly to a changing market.
Now, with interest rates low, abundant incentives, and older-than-usual vehicles in their garages, consumers are returning to showrooms to snap up new cars and trucks.
Shares of GM rose about 1% in Thursday morning trading, while Ford moved up more than 1%.