WARREN - Despite ending the month with three days of punishing rain and wind from Hurricane Sandy, automakers on Thursday reported solid October sales, including General Motors, which reported a 5 percent increase in sales over last year at this time.
The Lordstown-built Cruze helped propel GM's small car division to a 72 percent increase, compared to a year ago. For a third straight month, more than 19,000 buyers took delivery of a Cruze, again making the automobile GM's top-selling car in the U.S. Sales of the Cruze were up almost 34 percent over sales a year ago.
''Great products like the Cruze helped total GM passenger car sales increase 15 percent,'' said Kurt McNeil, GM's vice president of U.S. sales operations.
Details of GM's October sales and the continued growth in Cruze sales came two days after Consumer Reports listed the Cruze as a "recommended buy" among small cars, the first time a Lordstown-built car was listed in the magazine's annual analysis.
''The CR recommended buy is a great win for us and will definitely help sales,'' said James R. Cain, GM's manager of financial news. ''The combination of great design, high quality and strong resale values is pretty powerful in the marketplace.''
GM's sales of its full-size pickups also bounced back after numbers dipped last month. The Silverado reported 38,739 deliveries, a 5.7 percent increase over October 2011. By comparison, September figures listed a drop of about 17 percent from a year earlier.
The increases were despite this week's hurricane that slammed the east coast and lackluster attitudes about the economy in light of the upcoming election.
''They have made the economy the center point of their mud slinging and rock throwing,'' McNeil said. "Once we get past the election, all of these strong fundamentals will start to play out."
He added he is confident the upcoming quarter will be strong as well.
''We are confident that the industry will have a strong fourth quarter and continue growing next year,'' McNeil said. ''It's going to be a great time to be a Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick or GMC dealer."
Other automakers reported strong October sales as well. Toyota said its sales rose almost 16 percent for the month, while Volkswagen reported another strong month with sales up 22 percent. Honda sales slowed from double-digit growth earlier in the year to 8.8 percent, while Chrysler sales rose 10 percent and Ford reported slight gains.
Of major automakers, only Nissan reported a decrease, 3.2 percent, as Sandy pounded the Northeast, the company's top-performing region.
Chrysler said it sold 126,000 cars and trucks for the month, led by the Ram pickup, which was up 20 percent, and the Dodge Caravan van, which saw sales rise 49 percent.
At Ford, sales increased only 0.4 percent to 168,000 cars and trucks. The company said F-Series pickup trucks, the most popular vehicle in the nation, had their best October in eight years.
Toyota said its sales rose to 155,000 vehicles. It will release more data later in the day.
U.S. sales have been recovering from a 30-year low of 10.4 million in 2009 when credit froze, unemployment leaped and few people were buying cars. But the numbers are still far short of the recent peak of around 17 million in 2005. Analysts predict the country could reach 15 million in sales next year, which they consider about normal.
Auto sales have been a bright spot in the U.S. economy all year, staying relatively strong despite a mixture of good and bad economic news.
AP Auto Writer Tom Krisher contributed to this story.