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U.S. auto makers announce strong sales figures for March

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Thanks in part to low interest rates and an improving economy, new car and truck sales hit their highest level in almost six years last month: nearly 1.5 million vehicles sold.

The numbers are so much better than expected so far this year that analysts at Edmunds.com added another 500-thousand cars and trucks to this year's projection.

"Consumers are feeling a lot more confident. Their stock portfolios are fatter, their housing value has reversed direction and is going up and those all make the consumer feel better, feel more confident to go make a big purchase like a car," said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst at Edmunds.com.

March was the best month automaker Nissan has ever had. 

Chrysler's U.S. sales rose 5 percent.

They sold more cars and trucks than in any month since December of 2007.

Sales grew six-percent at Ford, and 6.4% at GM.

Bankrate.com says the average rate for a 60-month new-car loan fell to 4.1 percent from 4.5 percent at this time last year.

While Phil LeBeau, who covers the auto industry for cnbc, says a lot of the demand is driven by need.

"A lot of people are driving vehicles that are 10, 11, 12 years old. They need a new car or truck, and at this point, this is the right time to go in and buy one," said LeBeau.

He says the product's gotten better, too, to include pricing, style and performance.

"Whether it's fuel economy, whether it's infotainment, across the board, these are probably the best looking cars and trucks we've seen in a generation," said LeBeau.

Tax refunds may also be helping.

The average federal tax refund this year is nearly $3,000, which is plenty to cover a down payment on a new car.

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