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Toyota, Honda, VW, Hyundai Lead Solid Sept. U.S. Auto Sales

Toyota Motor (TM) continued to rebound from last year's natural disaster woes, leading the Japanese automakers in U.S. sales last month. Volkswagen continued to soar in America, while Detroit was in neutral.

Overall it was another strong month for U.S. sales, with new designs and more attractive small-car offerings dominating.

Toyota said U.S. sales shot up 41.5% vs. a year earlier to 171,910 vehicles, well ahead of the 32.2% boost forecast by the auto information firm Edmunds.com. Last year its production and sales dived due to supply chain issues after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami and Thai floods.

GM Gain Lags

General Motors (GM), which overtook Toyota as the world's top automaker last year, posted a 1.5% boost to 210,245 vehicles, its best September since 2008. But that missed the 1.9% gain Edmunds expected. Its market share has steadily eroded this year as Toyota and Honda Motor (HMC) rebuild.

Honda's sales jumped 30.9% to 117,211 vehicles, also beating estimates.

GM shares rose 2.6% despite the miss because hedge fund manager David Einhorn said the stock is undervalued. Toyota and Honda shares fell fractionally.

Ford Motor's (NYSE:F) September U.S. sales edged down 0.1% to 174,976 vehicles, missing forecasts for a small increase. But it touted a hike in sales of small, fuel-efficient cars. Its shares slid 1.4%.

Chrysler posted its 30th consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains, with a 12% hike to 140,041 vehicles. Analysts had expected an 8.4% bump for the Fiat-owned automaker.

VW's 40-Year Best

Germany's Volkswagen (VLKAY) remains on a roll. VW reported a 34.4% boost to 36,663 vehicles, its best September since 1972, when its iconic Beetles dominated its lineup. Its shares rose 2.1%.

Hyundai's U.S. sales rose 15% to 60,025 vehicles, a record September for the South Korean firm.

Low interest rates and pent-up demand for new vehicles helped. But Jesse Toprak, director of market intelligence at TrueCar, said automakers are putting out better products too, particularly in smaller cars. Truck sales, which usually climb as cooler fall weather sets in, lagged. Gas prices neared $4 a gallon in September, though they have cooled in recent days.

"The auto industry was able to recover and heal its wounds by treating itself with natural remedies, which are better products," Toprak told IBD.

Industrywide U.S. auto sales in September hit a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 14.96 million, according to Autodata Corp.

"Auto sales will continue to be a bright spot for the U.S. economy, which is particularly good news for GM as we walk into an even stronger cadence of new products in 2013 and 2014," Kurt McNeil, GM's vice president of U.S. sales operations, said in a statement.