US auto sales up 7.5% in 1Q; interest rates hit 15-year high

U.S. new-vehicle sales rose 7.5% in the first quarter as supplies improved and sky-high prices eased a bit while the global shortage of computer chips started to wane, according to an Associated Press report.

But the average auto-loan rate hit 7% during the quarter, leaving open the question of whether automakers will offer reduced rates to keep buyers interested through the rest of the year.

Automakers sold 3.59 million vehicles during the first three months of the year, compared with 3.34 million a year earlier. Results from companies were mixed. Some thrived with better chip supplies, while others continued to struggle.

General Motors’ sales jumped 17.6% over a weak first quarter last year as Buick brand deliveries doubled. The company said it picked up 1.5 points of market share. GM’s dealer inventory rose 50% in the quarter to more than 412,000 as production increased.

Nissan sales leaped 17.3%, and Honda, which struggled to get chips last year, posted an 11.7% increase.