General Motors reported an increase in auto sales last month while rival Ford Motor saw sales decline, as market watchers look for an industry-wide increase from September's levels, which were hurt by a Cash for Clunkers hangover.
GM's sales for the month of October rose 4 percent, slightly less than the 4.4 percent increase that industry-watchers were expecting.
CNBC reports auto sales adjusted for the number of selling days in the most recent month versus the same month a year earlier. Last month had 28 selling days, versus 27 in October of last year.
Video: CNBC's Phil LeBeau discusses GM's sales numbers with Susan Docherty, vice president of sales, GM.
GM sold a total of 177,603 vehicles in October, compared with 170,585 cars and trucks last year this time.
GM reported it gained market share for the third consecutive month—estimated at 21 percent of the total light vehicle market.
GM said it expected industry inventory levels to increase moderately in the fourth quarter to support modestly rising industry sales. The company also said it believed the bulk of the clunkers-related decline occurred by the end of September.
Mike DiGiovanni, GM's executive director of global market and industry analysis, said last week that the payback from the government Clunkers rebates that depressed U.S. auto sales in September should be over.
GM last reported a sales increase over the same month of the previous year in January of 2008, DiGiovanni said. But GM's vehicles sold poorly last October — down 45 percent from October of 2007 — when U.S. financial markets were collapsing.
Ford Tops Expectations
Ford's monthly auto sales declined 0.6 percent on an adjusted basis in October, compared with Street expectations of a roughly 4.5 percent decline.
Video: CNBC's Phil LeBeau looks at Ford's numbers with George Pipas, Ford's chief sales analyst.
Including Volvo, Ford's U.S. sales rose to 136,920 in October from 132,838 a year earlier, the automaker said. Ford said it expects its U.S. retail share to be up for the 12th time in the past 13 months in October.
George Pipas, chief sales analyst at Ford, told CNBC Tuesday that the industry problem hit its sales bottom earlier this year in April or May.
"We expect, and it certainly looks like it's materializing so far, that fourth-quarter sales will higher than those pre-'Clunker' levels," Pipas said. Fuel-efficient vehicles are leading Ford's sales increase, he added.
On Monday, Ford said it expected U.S. auto sales overall to come in at about 10.6 million vehicles in 2009 including medium- and heavy-duty trucks. It has not revisited yet forecasts for 2010 industry sales at 12.5 million and 2011 at 14.5 million.
Ford Motor is coming off its announcement Monday of a nearly $1 billion third quarter profit. The Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker also forecast a "solidly profitable" 2011.
Meanwhile, Ford and GM's "Big Three" rival Chrysler saw a steep decline in auto sales last month, reporting a fall of 32. 3 percent against last year's levels. Wall Street's consensus estimate for the privately held company was a decline of 29.3 percent.
The maker of the Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram truck brands says it sold 65,803 vehicles last month.
At Toyota, U.S. sales overall rose to 152,165 from 152,101 a year earlier. But because last month had one more selling day than October 2008, the comparable volume—on a daily selling rate basis—fell 3.5 percent. Year-to-date sales declined 25.5 percent to nearly 1.45 million vehicles.
Sales of Toyota division cars and light trucks slipped to 132,663 units, a decrease of 5.8 percent from the same period last year. The Lexus division, which includes light trucks and cars, reported October sales of 19,502 units, an increase of 15.5 percent over the year-ago month.
The Camry remained the carmaker's most popular model, selling 30,136 last month, a 4.9 percent decrease from the year-earlier figure.
The RX sports utility vehicle posted a 55 percent sales gain to 8,316.
- AP and Reuters contributed to this report.