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Fiat Chrysler says Feb. sales rose 12 pct. from a year ago

DETROIT (AP) — Fiat Chrysler's U.S. sales rose a healthy 12 percent in February, a sign that buyers ignored a stock market funk and returned to showrooms after a snowy January. The Italian-American automaker said that it sold just under 183,000 cars and trucks last month for its best February in...

DETROIT (AP) — Fiat Chrysler's U.S. sales rose a healthy 12 percent in February, a sign that buyers ignored a stock market funk and returned to showrooms after a snowy January.

The Italian-American automaker said that it sold just under 183,000 cars and trucks last month for its best February in a decade.

Industry analysts expect February sales to bounce back after a slight decline in January. All automakers report their monthly sales figures on Tuesday.

The LMC Automotive consulting firm predicts an 8.1 percent increase over a year ago to 1.36 million new vehicles. With an annual selling rate of 17.7 million cars and trucks, last month would be the best February in 16 years.

"Consumers seem to be shrugging off the volatility in the stock market and higher interest rates," said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting for LMC. "Very low fuel prices and many new vehicles in showrooms should help drive another strong year for auto sales."

All major automakers but Volkswagen should see healthy sales increases for February, according to Edmunds.com. The website is predicting VW sales will drop 2.3 percent compared with a year ago. Ford was expected to lead major automakers with a 17 percent increase.

LMC is predicting sales of 17.8 million new vehicles this year, up from 17.46 million last year. But the growth rate is slowing from previous years and many are expecting a plateau.

Fiat Chrysler was again led by the Jeep brand and the Ram pickup. Both reported sales up 23 percent. The company's truck sales rose 27 percent, but its car sales fell by the same percentage. Fiat Chrysler sold 149,188 trucks and SUVs last month but only 33,691 cars.

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