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Small-car sales lead April surge
While many automakers are reporting much stronger April sales today, they say that rising gasoline prices — which even hit a historic high in Michigan today — are having a dramatic impact on buying habits.

With consumers flocking to smaller fuel-efficient models, industry inventories of the most popular versions are starting to decline as the replacement pipeline is slowed because of production disruptions caused by the earthquake in Japan.

General Motors said today its U.S. sales increased 26.4% in April compared to the same month a year ago. The automaker’s April sales likely outpaced the industry, which is expected to increase by about 14.9% in April, according to Edmunds.com.

Last month, Ford outsold GM, but this month, GM is expected to regain its title as the No. 1 seller of cars and trucks in the U.S.

GM said it sold 25,160 Chevrolet Cruze compact cars in April — the best month yet for vehicle — and a total of 232,538 cars and trucks.

Ford’s sales increased 16.4% in April to 189,778 cars and trucks. Ford, which launched a redesigned version of the Ford Focus in late March, sold 17,265 of the compact cars in April, a 22.4% increase from the same month last year.

“Consumers are placing an even higher priority on fuel efficiency in every size and kind of vehicle,” Ken Czubay, Ford’s vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service said in a statement.

Toyota’s sales increased 1.3% to a total of 159,540 cars and trucks in April, which is significantly lower than the industry-wide sales increase. Japan’s No. 1 automakers’ production and inventory was hurt in April by disruptions caused by the March earthquake in Japan.

Chrysler’s sales rose 22.5% in April to a total of 117,225 cars and trucks, the company’s best results for April since 2008. Detroit Free Press

Mazda North American Operations (MNAO) today reported April 2011 sales of 20,638 vehicles, an increase of 9.0 percent versus April of 2010. Through the first four months of the year, Mazda's sales are up 13.8 percent, with 85,197 vehicles sold.

Mazda's crossover SUVs led the way with the ever-popular CX-7 and CX-9 posting best-ever April sales. CX-7 recorded sales of 2,873 vehicles, up 28.4 percent over April 2010, while CX-9 sales also were up 23.9 percent with 2,750 vehicles sold.

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