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Chrysler reports best August sales since 2007

(MoneyWatch) Chrysler Group reported today its biggest August sales since 2007, up 14 percent over August a year ago.

Ram pickup truck sales and the Chrysler 300 sedan led the strong results. Pickup sales rose 19 percent over a year earlier and the Chrysler 300 was up a whopping 65 percent -- its best sales since 2007. Chrysler Town and Country minivans posted a 30 percent gain.

This is the 29th straight month of sales gains for Chrysler since it bounced back from its 2009 bankruptcy and government rescue. "Our hard work over the past few years is starting to pay some dividends in our sales growth, quality awards and profitability," said Reid Bigland, head of U.S. sales.

When all companies have reported later today, analysts expect total August sales to be up by double digits over August last year. In fact, the forecast from J.D. Power and LMC Automotive projects these August results to be the strongest in four and a half years.

On the other hand, Power-LMC lowered its full-year forecast slightly to 14.2 million vehicles from its previous number of 14.5 million. Weaker U.S. economic reports recently and the continuing economic crisis in Europe prompted the forecast reduction, their analysts said.

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The biggest projected sales gains by company are for Honda (up 62 percent vs August 2011) Toyota (up 41) and Volkswagen (up 33), according to estimates by TrueCar.com. Toyota and Honda thus continue their strong recovery from 2011, when their inventories were constricted by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

On the market share front, Toyota and Honda also continued to gain. TrueCar.com projects the Toyota August market share 14.6 percent, up from 12.1 a year ago. Honda will have a 10.6 percent share, up from 7.7 percent, according to TrueCar. Most of those gains came at the expense of General Motors (18.1 percent vs. 20.4 a year ago) and Ford (15.3 vs. 16.3)

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