Updated at 11:02 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018, with more information.
“The key ingredients for strong sales exists – low unemployment, high confidence, and credit availability.”
Sales of the Chattanooga-made Atlas climbed 29 percent in October over the same period last year as the number of SUVs sold helped fuel Volkswagen of America's results last month.
Volkswagen sold 4,725 of the seven- seat Atlas SUV in the month. Total sales for the automaker rose 4.6 percent to 29,000 in October compared to a year ago, VW reported Thursday.
Across the auto industry, October auto sales in the U.S. came in higher than expected, according to Cox Automotive, and beat its forecast of 1.33 mil- lion vehicles.
Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist for Cox, said the results were surprising.
"It may be that higher income Americans, the key new vehicle buying demographic, are doing particularly well in today's economy," he said. "The key ingredients for strong sales exist — low unemployment, high confidence, and credit availability."
For Volkswagen of America, SUV sales made up 43 percent of its total last month.
"Our SUVs have given us a lift all year," said Derrick Hatami, executive vice president of sales, marketing and after sales for Volkswagen of America. "As we've shifted the portfolio over the past year with the Atlas and the new Tiguan, we've been able to move fairly quickly to be more in line with demand and consumers are responding."
Next year, VW's Chattanooga production plant plans to start assembly of a five-seat version of the Atlas. Volkswagen has pledged to spend $340 million to build a third vehicle here.
Sales of the Passat midsize sedan, also made in Chattanooga, continued to fall. Passat sales were just 2,602 in October, down 34 percent, according to VW.
Jetta sales led the brand for October with 10,148 units, up 10 percent over 2017, as the all-new 2019 model continued to attract consumers.
Sales of the all-new Tiguan totaled 7,097.
Year-to-date sales are 295,228 units, an increase of 5.4 percent over 2017, according to the automaker.
Meanwhile, FCA, the parent company of Fiat and Chrysler, said its sales in the U.S. in October hit 177,391 vehicles, a 16 percent increase compared to a year ago.
Ram brand sales rose 14 percent to 54,542 vehicles, a new high for October, according to FCA, while Jeep brand sales jumped 9 percent to 72,800.
Nissan Group posted October sales of 109,962 units, down 11 percent compared to the same period last year. However, the Infiniti division gained 15.4 percent in the month.
Ford's October U.S. sales totaled 192,616 vehicles, a 3.9 percent drop, the company reported. Sales of Ford trucks, SUVs and vans totaled 150,900 vehicles in October.
Toyota's October sales of 191,102 units were up 1.4 percent. The Toyota division posted October sales of 168,386 units, up 1.7 percent.
Honda reported selling 122,182 vehicles in the month, down 4.1 percent. Sales of Honda trucks gained 6.5 percent to set new October record, according to the company.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.