Chrysler sales jumped 20% in August, beating expectations for just 12.0% growth.

Chrysler is the first of the world's big automakers to announce its August U.S. auto sales stats.

Analysts estimate auto sales climbed to an annualized rate of 16.6 million in August, up from 16.4 million in July.

"The data have been volatile, but auto sales appear to be on a higher track, supported by easing credit conditions and rising consumer confidence and financial health," said Bank of America Merrill Lynch economists. "Pent-up vehicle demand is also supporting sales, and we expect to see a decent gain in August after a pause in July."

"The new vehicle market has been a notable economic bright spot this year," said Citi's Peter D'Antonio. "However, while our forecast is for another strong sales month (and we expect a similar result in September), the contribution to GDP growth from auto sales is likely to be much smaller in the third quarter than in the second. In the second quarter, a 0.8 million unit sales increase contributed 0.4 percentage point to GDP growth. Our forecast would put unit sales roughly unchanged in the third quarter."

Here's our running tally:

GM Ford Chrysler: +20.0% (+12.0% Estimated) Toyota Honda Nissan/Infiniti: +11.5% (2.7% Est.)

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