In March, Fiat Chryslers Ram truck line outsold GMs Chevrolet Silverado for the first time since 1999

In March, Fiat Chrysler's Ram truck line outsold GM's Chevrolet Silverado for the first time since 1999

While March weather came in like a lion and went out like a lamb, US light vehicle sales started roaring in the second half of the month.

Automakers delivered more than 1.5m cars and light trucks last month, up 5.7% from a year earlier and 28.9% better than February’s winter-depressed reading. That translated into a seasonally adjusted annualised rate (SAAR) of 16.4m, 1.1m units more than March 2013 and the highest rate since November.

All three Detroit automakers beat the forecasts, led by Chrysler Group, which reported its 48th consecutive month of year over year sales gains. Among the highlights of Chrysler’s month was the Ram outselling the Chevrolet Silverado for the first time since 1999. Ram sales were second only to those of the market-leading Ford F-series.

Ford came in 3.3% ahead of March 2013, thanks to a 31.4% jump in Lincoln sales powered by the MKZ saloon’s 71.7% improvement. Ford brand sales rose just 2.5% in March with 30.3% of those deliveries coming from the big F-series pickup.

Silverado sales finally showed some improvement, though not quite enough. Year to date sales of GM’s recently updated full-size pickups are still in the red by 4.7% possibly because The General’s unwilling to sacrifice profits for sales numbers. General Motors reported a 4.1% gain in March but near term GM results may be negatively impacted by the furor over a defective ignition switch. Though CEO Mary Barra is receiving praise for her handling of the situation, the company is receiving a lot of unfavorable coverage. So far this year, GM sales are down 2.3%.

American Honda sales fell 2.0% in March as a 3.4% drop in Honda brand sales wiped out a 10.5% advance from Acura. Sales of the high-volume Accord were down 10.4% in the first quarter of the year.

Nissan sales climbed 8.3% as the company solidified its position ahead of Honda in the manufacturer rankings. Both Nissan and Infiniti brands posted better numbers than March 2013 and first-quarter Altima sales were more than 10,000 ahead of the Accord.

Toyota capitalised on a big jump in Lexus sales, turning a 2.5% gain into a 4.9% gain. Sales of the CT, IS and GS propelled Toyota’s upscale marque past Mercedes in March, finishing second in the premium segment.

Subaru set another sales record while Mazda enjoyed its best March since 2007. Mitsubishi posted its best monthly numbers since August 2008 and is solidly in the black for the year.

Hyundai blamed the weather for its 1.9% shortfall while Kia beat its March 2013 numbers by 11.5% thanks to record sales of the Optima saloon.

Tata Motors' Land Rover set a March sales record while Jaguar sales rose 29.0%. BMW brand reported a record first quarter while taking the top spot in premium segment sales and trimming Mercedes’ year-to-date lead to 237 units even as Mercedes reported its own record first quarter. Porsche joined in the fun while Audi posted its 39th consecutive month of record sales.

Sales of pickups and upscale brands outpaced the market as a whole while small cars languished.

After a rocky start, sales look to be building up a good head of steam to for the climb to a 16m sale year.

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