(BN) GM Leads U.S. Automakers in December to Post the Best Sales Year Since ’08

GM, Ford, Chrysler, Nissan U.S. December Sales Exceed Estimates

Jan. 4 (Bloomberg) — General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Group LLC reported December vehicle sales that beat analysts’ estimates, capping the U.S. auto industry’s best year since 2008.

Auto sales increased as consumer confidence reached an eight-month high in December, and carmakers aired holiday ads and continued promotions begun in late November. The U.S. automakers rallied in 2011, two years after GM and Chrysler emerged from U.S.-backed bankruptcies. Also during the year, GM reclaimed the top spot in world vehicle sales from Toyota Motor Corp., and automakers announced plans to hire or rehire at least 25,000 workers in the U.S. by 2015.

“There is just a tremendous amount of pent-up demand,” Rebecca Lindland, an analyst with IHS Automotive, said today.

GM’s December vehicle sales rose 4.5 percent to 234,351, topping the average 4.4 percent gain of eight estimates. Ford’s December light-vehicle deliveries rose 10 percent to 209,447, exceeding the average estimate for a 7.7 percent gain. Chrysler’s December sales jumped 37 percent to 138,019 cars and light trucks, more than the average 33 percent analyst gain. Nissan Motor Co. also exceeded estimates.

Light-vehicle sales in December may have run at a 13.4 million seasonally adjusted annual rate, the average estimate of 14 analysts, up from the 12.5 million pace a year earlier. The rate may trail the 13.6 million seasonally adjusted pace in November, typically a slow sales month.

GM, Ford

Nissan’s December deliveries rose 7.7 percent to 100,927, which topped the 5 percent gain predicted by the average of five analysts.

GM, the largest U.S. automaker, was paced by a 53 percent increase in sales of the Cruze small car and a 12 percent rise in sales of Silverado pickups.

Ford’s passenger car sales fell 15 percent in December, while SUV sales rose 16 percent, the company said. Ford brand sales for 2011 were above 2 million for the first time since 2007, the Dearborn, Michigan-based company said last week.

Sales of Ford’s Explorer sport-utility vehicle rose 37 percent and its F-Series pickup gained 24 percent. Fusion, the company’s top-selling car, decreased 4.5 percent and its Fiesta small car was down 30 percent.

Chrysler’s Jeep brand had a 41 percent increase, which included gains of 36 percent for Grand Cherokee and 39 percent for Wrangler SUVs.

Toyota deliveries last month may have slid 1 percent and Honda Motor Co. sales may have fallen 15 percent, the averages of five estimates.

Hyundai Motor Co. and affiliate Kia Motors Corp. may have recorded a 27 percent sales gain last month, the average of four analysts’ estimates.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tim Higgins in Southfield, Michigan at thiggins21

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters

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