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Even embattled Volkswagen squeezes out tiny gain as October auto sales soar

October turned into one of the best auto sales months in years as low gas prices combined with attractive financing rates to lure consumers into showrooms.

"October was a huge month for the industry, smashing expectations and continuing its hot streak," said Bill Fay, Toyota's U.S. sales chief.

Toyota sold 204,045 vehicles in the U.S. in October, a 13 percent jump from the same month a year earlier, to log its best October ever.

TrueCar Inc., the Internet car shopping portal, estimated that U.S. auto sales topped 1.4 million vehicles in October, an 11.4 percent increase from a year ago and the most for the month since 2001.

"The industry remains hot, with October marking the third month this year of double-digit growth," said Eric Lyman, TrueCar's vice president of industry insights. "Interest rates are still low, which helps move vehicles off lots for consumers ready to buy. Automakers' promotions also sweetened the deal as the model-year close-outs carried over from September."

Strong consumer confidence added to the robust sales pace, he said.

General Motors Co. said it sold 262,993 vehicles in the U.S. last month, a 16 percent jump from the same period a year earlier. Its flagship Chevrolet brand posted its best October sales since 2004.

Ford Motor Co. said its U.S. sales totaled 213,938 vehicles last month, up 13 percent from a year ago for the company's best October since 2004.

"Ford vehicles posted all-time record average transaction pricing of $34,600 per vehicle," said Mark LaNeve, Ford's U.S. sales chief. "Gains in our truck business were especially strong."

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said its sales hit 195,545 vehicles last month, a 15 percent gain and the company's best October since 2001. It was Chrysler's 67th consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains.

Honda said it had a record-breaking October, selling 131,651 Honda and Acura vehicles, an increase of 8.6 percent.

Nissan posted sales of 116,047 vehicles in October, a 13 percent increase.

The month was so good that even Volkswagen, caught up in what has become a global emissions test cheating scandal, squeezed out a tiny increase. The brand sold 30,387 vehicles last month, only 74 cars more than a year ago but enough for a fraction of a percent increase in sales.

Most analysts expected it would be one of the few automakers with lower sales. The company has halted sales of its diesel vehicle in the U.S., and the scandal has damaged the brand.

"We would like to again thank our customers for their patience and loyalty," said Mark McNabb, chief operating officer of Volkswagen of America. "Volkswagen is committed to making things right and actively working to restore trust."

Still, an analysis by car information company Kelley Blue Book found that the average transaction price for new VWs fell 3.6 percent in October from September, when the automaker admitted to federal and California regulators that it had cheated on pollution tests for its four-cylinder diesel engine cars.

"Volkswagen had the largest month-over-month drop as the diesel emissions issue continues to impact the automaker," said Akshay Anand, an analyst for Kelley Blue Book.

He said the automaker is having to lower its prices to sell cars.

Meanwhile, prices at other automakers continue to climb, he said. The estimated average transaction price for light vehicles in the United States was $34,023 in October, an increase of 1.4 percent from October 2014 and up 0.7 percent from last month.

The cheating scandal also has done little to slow the momentum at Audi, VW's luxury brand. Audi's U.S. rose 16.8 percent to 17,700 vehicles last month.

It was its best-ever October. Moreover, Audi has sold 165,103 vehicles so far this year, more than what the brand sold in an entire year just two years ago.

Previously, only the Audi A3 was implicated in the cheating scheme.

But on Monday, federal and California environmental regulators alleged that other vehicles, including the diesel versions of the 2016 Audi A6 Quattro, A7 Quattro, A8, A8L and Q5 have software that fools emissions tests.

The agencies also said the diesel 2014 VW Touareg and the 2015 Porsche Cayenne cheat emissions test. Volkswagen, which owns all the brands, said that regulators are mistaken and that it has not cheated on tests of these cars with bigger engines.

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