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U.S. October auto sales expected to show 12 percent rise

Opel cars are pictured at the Opel plant of Bochum in this March 28, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender/Files
Opel cars are pictured at the Opel plant of Bochum in this March 28, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender/Files

DETROIT (Reuters) - U.S. auto sales to be reported on Friday are expected to be up 12 percent from a year ago as the federal government shutdown did not greatly impact consumer purchases.

Analysts forecast that the largest automakers in terms of U.S. sales will have double-digit percentage sales increases, with the possible exception of sales leader General Motors Co .

Pickup truck sales are expected to again show double-digit gains, but the pace may be slower than in recent months before the usual end-of-year flurry of truck buying, analysts said.

On a seasonally adjusted annualized basis, October sales will be 15.4 million, according to the average of 44 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters. That annualized rate would up about 12 percent from the previous October's new-vehicle sales.

The 16-day shutdown of most of the federal government did not keep sales down, several analysts said, including Alec Gutierrez of Kelley Blue Book.

"The expectations were that car buyers would wait on the sidelines, but because of pent-up demand and credit availability, car sales are expected to increase 7 percent from last month."

Kelly Blue Book is calling for a year-on-year increase in sales of 12 percent for the industry.

Crossover vehicles will show an increase of 26.5 percent, Kelley Blue Book said. Top sellers in the crossover segment of the auto industry so far this year are Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Chevrolet Equinox and Toyota RAV4.

Buckingham Research said Ford's high level of incentives on the F-150 pickup trucks pressured GM's Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup truck sales.

Ford bumped up incentive spending 24 percent in October from a year ago, according to industry research firm Edmunds.com, while GM raised incentives only 1.5 percent. Toyota's incentive spending rose 8.5 percent, while Honda incentives fell 23 percent.

While Chrysler's incentive spending fell 3 percent, it was still the industry leader in per-vehicle spending of over $3,000, according to Edmunds.

Elaine Kwel, analyst with Jefferies, said that lower gasoline prices will help boost sales of larger vehicles, which are in general more profitable for automakers. According to the AAA travel group, the average U.S. price for regular gasoline was $3.28 per gallon on Thursday, down 3 percent from a month ago and down 7 percent from a year ago.

Industry research firms Kelly Blue Book, TrueCar.com and Edmunds.com each offered estimates of October sales performances of the top automakers in U.S. sales.

Edmunds said General Motors Co sales rose 10 percent; Ford Motor Co , up 15.5 percent; Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T>, up 15 percent; Chrysler Group LLC, up 11 percent; and Honda Motor Co <7267.T>, up 13 percent.

TrueCar.com, which was more bullish in its industry forecast of a 14-percent gain over last October, showed GM at a 9 percent increase, Ford up 19 percent, Toyota up 13.5 percent, Chrysler up 19 percent and Honda up 16 percent.

Kelly Blue Book estimated gains for the top five automakers in U.S. sales, with GM up 8 percent, Ford up 14 percent, Toyota up 16 percent, Chrysler up 12.5 percent, and Honda up 12 percent.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)

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