Auto sales rose to their highest August levels in about a decade based on the early reports from automakers Wednesday.

Chrysler, Ford, Toyota and Nissan all posted gains while General Motors saw sales slip.

Automakers sold about 1.6 million vehicles in the U.S. in August, an increase of about 3 percent from the same period a year earlier, according to initial estimates released Wednesday.

Sales this August surpassed last year’s total even though dealers in some states with restrictions on retailing had one less day to sell cars this year.

“The industry had its best August in over a decade,” said Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president and general manager.

Toyota said it sold 246,100 vehicles in the U.S. last month, up 6.3 percent from August 2013.

Auto sales should exceed 16 million for the year for the first time since 2007, said Michael Ward, an analyst with the Sterne Agee investment house. U.S. light-vehicle sales exceeded 16 million units every year between 1999 and 2007 but plummeted during the recession.

Favorable lending rates, “a modestly improving economy,” and a large number of vehicles coming off lease that will be replaced by consumers are supporting demand for new vehicles, Ward said.

Sales were also pushed by “dealers who need to clear out 2014 models to make room for 2015 inventory,” said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with auto shopping company “TV and radio airwaves are filled with these clearance deals and they’re helping to push hesitant car shoppers into ‘buy now’ mode.”

The August sales results amounted to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of about 17 million, Ford executives said. Many analysts believe the market won’t grow much beyond its current sales rate.

“We continue to believe that the pace of sales for the industry has likely plateaued, leading to increased jostling for share,” said Brian Johnson, an analyst with Barclays Research.

General Motors, the nation’s largest auto seller, bucked the trend, logging a small decrease in U.S. sales in August. The Detroit automaker said sales fell 1.2 percent last month to 272,423 vehicles. It blamed a tough comparison to a strong August 2013.

“We see a strong fall selling season ahead for GM and the industry,” said Kurt McNeil, U.S. vice president of sales operations. “Employment and energy prices are in good shape, consumer confidence has reached a post-recession high and business investment is increasing.”

Ford said it sold 222,174 vehicles in August, up 0.4 percent from a year ago and its best August sales in eight years.

Chrysler posted U.S. sales of 198,379 vehicles, a 20 percent increase from a year earlier and its best August sales since 2002.

Nissan said it had U.S. sales of 134,388 vehicles, an increase of 11.5 percent over the prior year and an August record.

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