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Government shutdown didn’t stall car sales

October started slowly, but rose in last two weeks

Sales of Chrysler’s Ram pickup truck (above) rose 18 percent, and Chevrolet’s Silverado pickup sales rose 10 percent.

GARY CAMERON /Reuters/File

Sales of Chrysler’s Ram pickup truck (above) rose 18 percent, and Chevrolet’s Silverado pickup sales rose 10 percent.

DETROIT — The government shutdown dampened, but didn’t stall, Americans’ demand for new cars and trucks.

The 16-day shutdown slowed US auto sales in the first two weeks of October, but they picked up speed in the last two weeks. Sales rose 11 percent to 1.2 million.

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General Motors, Ford, Nissan, and Chrysler all recorded double-digit sales gains, while Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai saw smaller increases.

Of major automakers, only Volkswagen’s sales fell.

Stable fuel prices, low interest rates, and the increased availability of credit pushed people to buy regardless of the political wrangling, said Kurt McNeil, GM’s vice president of US sales.

‘‘All those things that have been driving the economy? They’re still there,’’ he said.

Pickup trucks sold well as business improved for contractors and other workers.

Sales of the Chevrolet Silverado, GM’s top selling vehicle, jumped 10 percent to nearly 43,000, and Chrysler’s Ram truck was up 18 percent.

Sales of Ford’s F-Series pickups rose 13 percent and topped 60,000 for the sixth month in a row.

SUV sales were also strong. Sales of Nissan’s Pathfinder, which was recently redesigned, nearly doubled from last October.

Sales of the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban large SUVs both jumped more than 50 percent.

The weak spot was small cars and hybrids, which have been struggling to win buyers as gas prices fall.

Gas prices averaged $3.27 per gallon at the end of October, the lowest level of the year.

The national average has dropped 31 cents since Labor Day, according to AAA.

Toyota Prius hybrid sales fell 7 percent while the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid was down 32 percent.

The tiny Fiat 500 fell 36 percent.

Sales of Ford’s Focus small car were down 17 percent, while its C-Max small hybrid fell 20 percent.

US consumers have started to gradually shift from smaller, more fuel-efficient cars to larger vehicles, said Jesse Toprak, an analyst with the TrueCar.com auto pricing website.

Stable gas prices are not the only reason, he said.

Cheap financing and sweet lease deals have made larger vehicles more affordable, cutting the monthly payments so people can afford them even if gas prices go up.

‘‘History has shown us that consumers in the US would rather buy a larger vehicle given the choice,’’ Toprak said.

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