News Column

US Automakers Report Best November Sales in Years

Dec 5, 2012

The "Big Three" U.S. automakers on Monday all announced strong sales last month, with General Motors (GM) and Chrysler reporting their best November sales in five years, and Ford posting its highest November sales in small cars since 2000.

Overall, Chrysler led the U.S. gains with a total November sales increase of 14 percent compared to the same period last year, followed by Ford and GM, with year-over-year sales rising 6 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively, according to a corporate press release reaching Xinhua here.

Chrysler sold 122,565 vehicles last month, with its Fiat brand posting the strongest gain of 123 percent thanks to a record November sales for the Fiat 500.

Of Chrysler's five brands, only Jeep posted a decline for the month, with the year-over-year sales falling 3 percent. Its Dodge and Ram brands each notched their best November sales in five years.

In addition to the Fiat 500, the Dodge Journey and Jeep Wrangler also set November sales records.

November was similarly strong at GM, with total sales of 186, 505 vehicles, the automaker's best November sales performance since 2007, which was partly due to strong fleet sales, up 16 percent since the same period of time last year. November retail sales at GM, however, were essentially flat, said another press release from GM.

GM passenger cars saw the highest yearly increase by a rise of 19 percent in November, with crossover sales also up 9 percent. Sales of GM trucks, however, fell 11 percent compared to the same period of time last year, for which, GM partly blamed increased promotional activity by other competitors.

Of GM's four brands, Cadillac and Buick posted the best November sales, with total sales increases of 30.3 percent and 22. 1 percent, respectively. Total sales for GM's primary Chevrolet brand were, however, largely unchanged in November, but Chevrolet retail sales fell 4.3 percent year on year.

Despite the monthly drag in the automaker's overall Chevrolet sales, GM still remained upbeat about the brand's performance and mentioned strong November sales gains for the Chevrolet Cruze and Sonic models, as well as a 33 percent increase for the Chevrolet Volt.

Ford rounded out the solid November performances for U.S. automakers, with total sales of 177,673 cars. While total sales for Ford increased 6 percent compared to November 2011, its retail sales were double that, surging by a 12 percent year on year, said information from a conference call set up by Ford Monday

Ford's especially strong retail sales gains were mostly due to a 76 percent year-on-year spike in sales of small cars, which Ford said was caused by demand for its new C-Max hybrid and Focus and Fiesta models. Ford's November small car sales were the highest in 12 years, with the automaker additionally seeing its best-ever month for electrified vehicle sales.

Ford sales for larger vehicles were similarly upbeat, as the automaker's F-Series pickup trucks posted its strongest November sales since 2005, up 18 percent year on year.

For U.S. automakers, November additionally saw the unique aftereffects of Hurricane Sandy, with major cleanup and recovery efforts beginning at the start of the month.

At the conference call, Jenny Lin, the senior U.S. economist for Ford, estimated that replacement demand from Hurricane Sandy accounted for estimated 25,000 to 30,000 vehicles industry-wide, and that Sandy-related sales would likely continue through the first half of 2013.

As for other macroeconomic factors affecting the auto industry, Lin said indicators pointed towards modest economic growth and a gradual recovery in the housing sector, as well as "stable" consumer confidence.

Lin also believed, however, the U.S. manufacturing sector remained "sluggish," and that the morning release from the Institute for Supply Management said only six out of 18 manufacturing industries surveyed reported growth in November.

Still, Ford Vice President of U.S. Marketing Erich Merkle said in the same conference call that the outlook for the U.S. auto industry remained strong, even in the face of the looming "fiscal cliff" of tax increases and sweeping spending cuts.

"I think (the fiscal cliff) is on the front page of every newspaper, but when you take the other side of the equation the aging of the fleet, you know, the average vehicle ... the low interest rates on balance it may make headlines, but the overall spirit of consumers that are going into the showroom right now in our surveys show that business is still going to be quite good," Merkle said.

According to a January study from Polk auto data service, the average age of U.S. cars reached a record high of 10.8 years in 2011, indicating more Americans may be in the market to buy a new car thanks to pent-up demand during the economic recession.

GM also predicted Monday that the total U.S. auto sales for the full year of 2012 would be in the 14 million to 14.5 million vehicle range.

Source: Copyright Xinhua News Agency - CEIS 2012

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