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US auto sales boom; Hyundai, Ford gain ground

US auto sales boomed in August as $3 billion in government incentives drove sharp gains for Hyundai Motor Co and Ford Motor Co but failed to provide a boost for General Motors Co in its first full month outside bankruptcy.

Ford reported a 17% jump in monthly sales on Tuesday and the success of the US government's “cash for clunkers” trade-in incentives pushed overall industry sales to the first year-on-year increase in 21 months.

Korea's Hyundai posted a 47% increase as sales of its Elantra sedan more than doubled.

The US government incentive program also helped Honda post a 10% sales gain while Toyota Motor Corp sales were up 6%.

The two US automakers to have emerged from government-sponsored bankruptcies - GM and Chrysler - lost market share during the August sales bonanza.

GM sales dropped 20%, while Chrysler was off 15%. Nissan Motor Co sales fell almost 3% from record levels of a year earlier.

Meanwhile, auto sales rose in France and Italy and stabilized in Spain on the success of similar government-backed sales incentives, data released on Tuesday showed.

The now-exhausted US “clunkers” program, which was inspired by the programs in France and other European markets, drove a rush into dealerships in July and August.

More than 690,000 vehicles were scrapped in the United States for taxpayer-funded credits of up to $4,500 as consumers took advantage to drop gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs.

On an annualized basis, industry-wide US sales topped 14 million units, according to Autodata.

That was up from 13.6 million a year earlier but still far below the 16 million range that had been seen as the bottom for the market until 2007. (Reuters)