Ford and Chrysler reported their best US sales performances since 2007 Tuesday as analysts predicted the auto industry as a whole would also rack up its biggest month in five years.
Chrysler said its sales rose five percent to 171,606 vehicles in March despite limited inventory of some of its best-selling models, including Jeep and heavy-duty Ram trucks.
It was the company's 36th consecutive month of gains in year-over-year sales, and the strongest sales since December 2007.
Ford posted its best performance since May 2007 as sales rose six percent to 236,160 vehicles in March.
Toyota sales rose one percent to 205,342 units in March.
"The auto industry continued its string of impressive monthly results, and at Toyota we had our best month since Cash for Clunkers in August of 2009," said Bob Carter, head of automotive operations for Toyota Motor Sales, USA.
"A strong first-quarter close and increased consumer confidence continue to position the auto industry as a leader in the economic recovery."
The strong sales come after years of painful restructuring and the collapse of demand following the 2008 financial crisis which pushed General Motors and Chrysler into government-backed bankruptcies.
Automotive website Edmunds.com forecast that total industry sales will rise 5.3 percent from March 2012 once all automakers have reported to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 15.6 million vehicles.
With total sales forecast at nearly 1.5 million vehicles it would be the best performance in sheer numbers since May 2007, and would be a 24 percent gain from February.
Since auto sales vary significantly from month to month because of traditional shopping patterns, seasonal sales and product launch schedules, analysts focus on the seasonally adjusted sales pace.
March is expected to be the fifth consecutive month with a sales pace over 15 million and Edmunds upped its forecast for 2013 to 15.5 million vehicles.
"As long as the auto industry continues this string of 15-plus million (sales pace) every month, there won't be any shortage of optimism," says Edmunds.com Senior Analyst Jessica Caldwell.
"We're not quite back to pre-recession levels, but the industry is getting closer to a full recovery every month."