But after going through a severe downsizing during the recession, companies are also wary of adding factory space. They fear the cost of having too much if the economy heads south. GM said Tuesday that it has no plans to increase production because its factories can handle the expected slow-and-steady growth.
Ford and GM each reported sales gains of 6 percent for March. GM reported big increases for Buick and Cadillac, which both have new small cars. Ford’s Fusion sedan and Escape SUV both reported record monthly sales. Still, Ford’s Lincoln luxury brand was down 23 percent. But the arrival of the MKZ sedan at dealerships this month should help turn sales around, the company said.
Toyota sales rose 1 percent. Sales of the new Toyota Avalon and Lexus ES sedans doubled over last March, making up for declines for the Camry, RAV4 and most of Scion’s lineup.
Other automakers reporting Tuesday:
— Chrysler’s sales rose 5 percent thanks to a 25 percent increase for the Ram pickup and big gains for the Dodge Avenger and Challenger sedans.
— Nissan’s sales gained 1 percent to 137,726, its highest ever monthly U.S. sales. Sales of the Leaf electric car reached 2,236 — almost 300 percent more than last year — after Nissan lowered its price. Sales of the new Pathfinder SUV were also strong.
— Volkswagen’s sales were up 3 percent thanks to strong sales of the Beetle small car and CC sedan.
— Hyundai’s sales fell 2 percent from March of last year, which was the automaker’s highest sales month ever. Elantra compact sales were up 33 percent, but sales of the company’s top-selling car, the Sonata, plunged more than 22 percent.
— Honda’s sales rose 7 percent thanks to strong demand for the Accord and the new Acura RDX crossover.