Pickup Sales Signal Improving Economy: AutoNation CEO

Sales of pickup trucks were up 60 percent in July from a year ago at AutoNation, the nation's largest auto dealer, in a clear indicator the economy is recovering, Chairman and CEO Mike Jackson told CNBC.

“Basically, small business America has an optimistic view about future business and is going out and buying pickup trucks," Jackson said.

In May, Jackson reported pickup sales were up 50 percent from a year ago, demonstrating consistency in the trend among consumers, and small businesses.

Overall, sales at AutoNation were 19,700 in July, up 6 percent from last year, which included the first phase of the federal "cash for clunkers" program, Jackson said. July sales are up 22 percent sequentially from June, he said.

Sales of Ford and Chevrolet vehicles were up 15 percent year-over-year at AutoNation, Jackson added.

All major automakers except Ford and Daimler reported higher July sales from June;the annual rate of car sales is at a pace of 11.98 million, higher than the 10.4 million in sales of 2009 but still off the peak of 16.9 million in auto sales in 2005.

The figures are evidence the economy and the auto industry are not heading for a double-dip recession, he said.

"I don’t see it," Jackson said. "We have a slow, steady recovery that’s underway."