U.S. light-vehicle sales soared to a 6-year high in August, pushing the year-to-date pace 9.6% ahead of like-2012, as the market heads toward a 15.5 million-unit – or better – finish.

Deliveries totaled 1.498 million in August, the best tally for any month since 1.558 million in May 2007.

The daily selling rate over the month’s 28 days totaled 53,490, up 12.8% from year-ago’s 47,415 (27 days), and marking the 36th straight year-over-year increase.

August’s seasonally adjusted annual rate of 16.0 million units was the highest since the identical number was reached in November 2007. The 2013 to-date SAAR through August paced at 15.5 million, compared with year-ago’s 14.4 million, making it the highest for the period since 16.1 million in 2007.

August’s volume was aided by the inclusion of Labor Day weekend sales, which is not typical of most years. The extended sales period is taken into account in the government’s seasonal factors used to determine the SAAR.

Looking ahead, September’s volume will take a precipitous drop from August, but the SAAR should remain relatively steady. However, the pull-ahead of sales into August could drop September’s total below year-ago, which would be the first time monthly volume, unadjusted for the DSR, declined since May 2011.

Incentives, including holiday retail programs, did not appear to have unusual impact on August’s results. Fleet deliveries did not have a major effect either.

Job growth, improved housing and construction, low interest rates and pent-up demand were the main drivers behind August’s surge.

Results for nearly all auto makers were above expectations. However, sales by high-volume manufacturers Honda, Nissan and Toyota get most of the credit for pushing the SAAR above 16 million for the first time since before the recession.

Combined, the three posted a 19.5% sales increase from year-ago. The remainder of the industry recorded a 9.6% gain, much of that on the strength of other Japan-based auto makers. BMW and Audi also contributed with large increases.

The only auto maker to post a decline was Volkswagen, despite the Audi brand’s 17.2% increase.

General Motors, Ford and Chrysler all recorded gains but lost market share compared with year-ago.

All cross/utility vehicle segments, small-car and the luxury-sedan segments – Lower, Middle and Upper Luxury – notched gains above the industry average. Middle and Large Sport/Utility vehicles also outran the industry pace, with increases of 14.6% and 16.9%, respectively, from year-ago.

Although not every large-truck segment posted positive results, combined sales of big trucks continued to outpace the market. Total deliveries from the Large Pickup/CUV/SUV/Van segments, including luxury models, were up 16.2% in August, and market share increased to 18.3% from 17.7% year-ago.

Deliveries of large pickups climbed 14.5% and market share was up slightly from year-ago at 11.7%. The results lagged the year-to-date 21.8% increase for the segment. However, a slowdown in August is typical for large pickups.

Tanking during the month was the small-van segment, consisting mostly of passenger vehicles, and minivans. Sales fell 7.6% in August and have declined in seven of the past eight months.

Notably, combined sales of cargo models in the Small Van segment jumped 16.0% in August, and 27.7% year-to-date. The rise in demand for small commercial vans partly explains the 2.7% decline in year-to-date deliveries of large vans, including last month’s 3.9% drop.

hstoddard@wardsauto.com