Chrysler's U.S. sales top expectations in September

DETROIT Tue Oct 1, 2013 8:15am EDT

DETROIT Oct 1 (Reuters) - Chrysler Group LLC surprised auto industry analysts with a modest 1 percent increase in U.S. car sales in September.

Chrysler, an affiliate of Italy's Fiat SpA, said it sold 143,017 vehicles, handily beating analysts' expectations.

The U.S. auto industry's sizzling summer sales pace is expected to have stalled last month, for the first year-on-year sales decline in more than two years. There were two fewer shopping days in September, compared with the previous year, and part of the Labor Day shopping weekend fell in August.

Chrysler bucked that trend, with sales of its Dodge, Chrysler and Ram brands all reporting modest increases in September.

Fiat brand sales plunged 24 percent, the first year-to-year decline in 18 months.

Jeep sales fell 5 percent, as Chrysler struggled to get the all-new 2014 Cherokee to dealers.

Chrysler said its U.S. dealers reported the best September sales since 2007.

Analysts who closely watch the auto industry predict September's annualized sales rate will be in the range of 15.2 million to 15.7 million. The lower end of that range would fall short of summer's torrid pace, including a 16 million rate in August that marked the strongest performance in nearly six years.

Chrysler projected the industry's annualized rate in September at 15.7 million, including about 300,000 heavy trucks. (Reporting by Paul Lienert and Bernie Woodall in Detroit; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick)