Business is booming for car dealerships around the country — so much so that local dealers are hiring more staff members and popular vehicles are flying off their lots.

On Thursday General Motors Co., the nation's largest automaker, posted the largest July increase, of 16 percent, with double-digit sales growth for all four of its brands (Buick, Cadillac, GMC and Chevrolet).

Rob Marchant, dealer and operator of Marchant Chevrolet, said locally they have seen a 15 percent increase in sales.

“It's an exciting time to be a Chevrolet dealer. We have 13 new models coming out in 13 months,” Marchant said.

Ford, Chrysler and Nissan each reported an 11 percent increase in sales for last month, a sign that U.S. auto sales will remain strong into the second half of the year.

“The interest is there again and people are getting out and looking at the new products Ford is offering,” said Graham Eubank, president of Palmetto Ford on Savannah Highway.

Palmetto Ford has seen a 14 percent increase in sales this year. Eubank said his dealership has hired more salesmen and technicians since the boom, which he partially attributes to financial institutions providing more credit for consumers.

Other factors, he said, are increased Ford production, and an interest in hands-free technology in their vehicles. Their most popular is the F-150, with the Fusion, Focus and Escape close behind.

Ford sold nearly 194,000 vehicles, led by the F-Series pickup truck, with sales up 23 percent. One in three vehicles sold by Ford last month was a pickup.

Chrysler, based in Auburn Hills, Mich., said it sold just over 140,000 cars and trucks last month, led by gains in pickup truck and SUV sales. It was Chrysler's best July since 2006.

Patrick Bachrodt, with Rick Hendrick Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram, said Jeep Wranglers and Grand Cherokees are hard to come by for their customers because they are so popular. He said they sell about 50 a month.

Their dealership was recently ranked 14th in new car sales out of 3,000 dealerships in the nation.

Bachrodt also said new technological features are what their customers are looking for.

“The customer is really tech-savvy,” Bachrodt said.

At Nissan, sales rose to just over 109,000, a July record for the company. Sales of the Altima midsize car rose 11 percent, and sales of the redesigned Pathfinder SUV more than tripled.

Of automakers reporting early Thursday, only Volkswagen had a down month. Its sales were off 3.3 percent as the top-selling Jetta compact faltered. Jetta sales dropped 1.8 percent.

The reports kicked off a day of sales tallies from the major automakers. Most industry analysts expect July sales to rise around 15 percent from a year ago. A performance that strong will signal that the industry's momentum can carry through the second half of the year.

A combination of low interest rates, an improving economy, rising consumer confidence and increasing home values in many areas is driving sales.

Tom Krisher and Dee-Ann Durbin of the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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