Nightly News   |  September 04, 2013

Auto sales drive double-digit growth

Not only are consumers purchasing more vehicles, they’re leasing more, too. A combination of low-interest rates and longer loan terms has made customers less skittish about buying. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

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>>> if you spend any time out on the road across this country, then you've probably seen them, the shiny new cars and pickup trucks , a lot of them with temporary dealer tags belonging to someone who just bought themselves a new vehicle, and sure enough there is proof of what we're seeing on the road. the big automakers are up double digits in sales, making august their best month in years. nbc's tom costello is at a toyota dealership in suburban maryland tonight. tom, good evening.

>> reporter: hi, brian. in fact, 70% of the cars that toyota sells here are made in america. it just had its best month in five years. americans, it seems, are gaining confidence in the economic recovery and finding that deals like this offered by all automakers are simply too good to pass up. on this first wednesday in september rick palmisano was picking up his new toyota highlander .

>> everything is good. brought you a check.

>> fantastic.

>> reporter: bought it over the weekend for $32,000, trading in another car, getting a rebate and taking advantage of good financing.

>> with the combination of the low interest rates , 0.9, 1.9 and the fact that it was time for me to change vehicles, i thought this was the best time to do it.

>> reporter: average sale price of a new carnationwide, $31,252. hit a record high in august but low interest rates and longer loan terms, up to seven years, lured in the customers. with suvs and pickups and small cars the top sellers . gm sales surged, up 15% in august. the silverado pickup and the chevy sonic subcompact were the most popular. toyota is now number two behind gm, sales up a whopping 22% and ford up 12% and the f-series pickup selling every 42 second and chrysler sales up 12% and nissan sales also strong, up 22%. leasing has returned in a big way. cnbc's phil lebeau covers the auto industry .

>> consumers are looking for the lowest monthly payment, and because of low interest rates and because of the deals being structured by automakers, many times you can get into a lease with a monthly payment of $200 or $215.

>> reporter: one of the hottest selling cars, the ford fusion to. keep up with demand, ford has opened a new assembly line . tammy darvish runs one of the country's biggest dealship chains, 31 franchise selling ten different brands and says americans are no longer skittish about the price at the pump.

>> well, i think consumers are used to it, and as long as we stay under the 4.50 level, they are used to the cyclical process.

>> reporter: dick palmisano wasn't worried and drove off in his new suv. some dealerships have struggled to keep enough inventory on hand. it's a nice problem to have, but automakers want to make sure that the demand is there permanently before they start ramping up production.

>> tom costello on the sales floor for us tonight. by