Neither hurricane Sandy nor concerns about a looming "fiscal cliff" slowed the auto industry in November.
Sales of new cars and trucks in November are expected to increase 12% in the U.S. as rising consumer confidence and higher holiday incentives helped to bolster industry sales nationwide and as people with cars damaged by hurricane Sandy in the Northeast rushed to replace their vehicles.
Chrysler, the first automaker to report November results today, said its sales increased 14% compared with the same month a year ago.
It also was the 32nd consecutive month that the Auburn Hills automaker reported a sales gain. Four out of the automaker's five core brands reported a sales increase. In November, sales increased 123% for Fiat, 32% for Dodge, 23% for Ram and 1% for Chrysler while Jeep's sales declined 3%.
"Even with all the talk of a looming fiscal cliff, Chrysler Group is well positioned for a strong sales finish to the year," said Reid Bigland, Chrysler's head of U.S. sales and CEO of the Dodge brand said in a statement. "We are expecting a strong December as the industry continues to recover from the East Coast hurricane and consumers continue to respond to our popular year-end Big Finish event."
In Washington D.C., the Obama administration and Republicans are locked in negotiations to avert an automatic series of deep spending cuts and large tax hikes that economists and others say could push the economy into a recession.
But at auto dealerships across the U.S., consumers were buying cars in November at what could be the fastest rate in nearly five years, according to TrueCar.com, which estimates that the seasonally adjusted annualized rate of sales increased to 15.2 million in November.
"November was a strong month for new car sales and the impact from hurricane Sandy helped to boost auto sales to its highest since February 2008," Jesse Toprak, senior analyst for TrueCar.com said in a report last week. "We don't expect any major impact on auto sales from the ongoing fiscal cliff discussions."
The industry is benefiting from an increase in consumer confidence and a slowly recovering housing industry. In November, the Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index increased to 73.7 -- its highest level since February 2008. Over the past few months, consumers have grown increasingly optimistic about the unemployment rate and the job market, the Conference Board said.
Hurricane Sandy, which hit the Northeast at the end of October, affected a region of the country that accounts for about 20% of all new car sales, according to Edmunds.com.
As a result about 30,000 sales were either lost or deferred in October. In addition, 200,000 to 250,000 vehicles were damaged or destroyed by Sandy, of which Edmunds.com estimates 65,000 to 80,000 will be replaced with new cars or trucks.
Also, automakers boosted incentives in November by as much as 20%, according to TrueCar.com.
"The fact that November sales have bounced back from a sluggish October suggests that those who lost cars or who deferred purchases after Hurricane Sandy are already getting back on the road," Edmunds.com Senior Analyst Jessica Caldwell said in a report on Nov. 29. "Fortunately for these buyers, they entered a market in which holiday and year-end deals were in full swing and loan rates hovered near all-time lows."
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