February best month for auto sales since "Cash for Clunkers"

Car salesmen took their best sportcoats out of mothballs, spritzed some Sex Panther behind their ears and sold the Puxatawney out of the market in February, giving the U.S. auto industry its best month since "Cash for Clunkers." And here you thought the middle class was broke.

Leading the pack were the big boys, with General Motors and Toyota both up 42% from a year ago. Ford and Chrysler were up 13%; Nissan jumped 32%, Honda rose 22% and Hyundai grew 28%.

And of course, with gas prices rising well above $3 per gallon across the country, much of the growth came from smaller or more fuel-efficient models. Hah, I kill myself: Of course pickups and SUVs led the sales surge, bolstered by nifty discounts. Meanwhile, GM sold 281 Chevy Volts and Nissan sold 87 Leafs, which together equal the number of Ram pickups Chrysler sells every 12 hours. Photo: AP