said he's seen car sales jump by about 15 percent.
"It's definitely increased, and that's a positive sign, but we're not out of the woods yet," he said. "We're still struggling."
At Long Beach BMW, sales representative Art Smoldk said he's seen sales increase by about 10 percent compared to last year.
"I think it's mostly because the economy is getting better," he said. "People are tired of driving their old cars."
Last month's strong sales are significant considering November isn't considered a big month for dealerships -- until recently, Leutheuser said.
Galpin Ford in North Hills, the largest Ford dealership in the world, had its best single day sales ever last year on Black Friday when 140 vehicles were driven off the lot, said general manager Terry Miller.
This year, while sales on Black Friday weren't as impressive -- just more than 70 vehicles sold -- the week was still a success, he said. A total of 175 vehicles were sold over four days when the dealership launched its Black Friday deals, Miller said.
Miller expects a 25 percent increase in sales at Galpin Ford over last year by the end of 2012.
"Sales have strengthened each week in November, which bodes well for a strong finish to the month and the year," John Humphrey, senior vice president of global automotive operations at J.D. Power and Associates, said in a written statement.
The U.S. sales forecast for 2013 remains stable at 15 million units for total light-vehicles and 12.2 million for retail sales, but represents a slower growth rate of 4 percent from 2012.
LMC senior vice president Jeff Schuster said uncertainty is expected to dip in the first half of the year.
"The irrepressible need and willingness of consumers to replace aging vehicles is stronger than the effects of natural disasters and fiscal turmoil both here and abroad," Schuster said.
"A sustained recovery pace in auto sales is expected over the next six months, barring any fiscal cliff hangover, but the medium-term forecast is still dependent on more pronounced economic activity and growth."
Consumer confidence is up nationally, with the Conference Board's consumer confidence index rising in November to its highest level in nearly five years from 73.1 in October to 73.7 in November.
Although the index is still below the level of 90 that is consistent with a healthy economy, October and November's numbers are the best readings since February 2008.
With consumer spending driving nearly 70 percent of economic activity, higher consumer confidence could mean a busier holiday shopping season and stronger economic growth.
Southern California dealerships such as Subaru-Mitsubishi of San Bernardino are betting on a healthier business climate.
The dealership is in the midst of a refurbishment project with an estimated cost somewhere south of $500,000, general manager Mike Graeber said. Once completed, the dealerships will have a new customer reception area with wireless access.
The renovation project follows dealership owner Cliff Cummings' move in 2011 to purchase the Subaru dealership and move it to San Bernardino Auto Center. Cummings also owns the Auto Center's Toyota and Scion concerns. The Auto Center is also home to a Nissan dealership.
"We've got double good news. One, I think the car business is good in general," he said. "And then, we are growing because we relocated the Subaru franchise from where it was for years to the San Bernardino Auto Center."
Galpin's Miller believes part of the increase in auto sales is attributed to car companies producing more innovative vehicles that have virtually everything voice activated while being more fuel efficient.
"I've been here 25 years and the showroom looks much different than it did back then," Miller said, overlooking the showcase of compact and hybrid vehicles at the dealership.
The other factor, Miller said, is that the deals have been ramped up over the last few years to encourage consumers to continue purchasing despite the tremulous economy.
Ford, for example, has year-end deals offering a $1,000 rebate or $1,000 Mastercard gift card. In some cases, customers can see $6,500 rebates, Miller said.
Incentives like those, often offered during holiday weekends, are exactly what attracted customers like Peter and Leticia Sandoval of Claremont.
While waiting to get their 2012 Ford Flex serviced, Peter Sandoval explained that their decision to invest in a new car was because "in the back of our minds, we thought we better get it while we can."
"We felt we had more of an advantage to work with pricing because of the uncertain economy," Leticia Sandoval said.
"With the way the economy has looked and the fiscal cliff approaching, we just didn't know how the future was going to look," her husband chimed in.
Despite the rising sales numbers, Leutheuser remained "cautiously optimistic."
"We hope that the trend will continue," he said.
The Associated Press and Staff Writers Andrew Edwards, Mariecar Mendoza and Kelly Puente contributed to this report.
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