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December Sales on Track to Be Best Since Mid-Decade

Makers show little impact from “fiscal cliff” fears.

by on Jan.03, 2013

The latest Grand Cherokee helps Jeep reach an all-time sales record for 2012.

Despite concerns that the ongoing fiscal cliff crisis might scare off potential buyers, the American auto market continued its rebound in December, with preliminary indications that the month will wrap up with a solid, double-digit increase.

And with the political gridlock broken, at least for now, that is buoying expectations that 2013 will be on track to bring the best sales since well before the start of what was, for the auto industry, the worst downturn since the Great Depression.

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A number of key makers have yet to release results, but of the foreign-owned brands, the most significant upturn so far has been reported by Volkswagen, which scored a 35% gain, making it the best December for the maker since 1973, at the height of demand for the original Beetle.

Japan’s giant wasn’t far behind, Toyota Motor Sales, USA, reporting year end sales of 2,082,504 — up 26.6% over last year. Despite some problems in China resulting from an ongoing dispute with Japan over ownership of a chain of uninhabited islands, Toyota is expected to end 2012 as the world’s best-selling automaker.

Workers at the new VW plant in Tennessee have had trouble meeting the growing demand for the American-made Passat.

Hyundai, meanwhile, managed a solid 17% gain for the month – all the more significant since it suggests the maker has overcome the potential pitfall of having had to sharply revise downward its fuel economy numbers after admitting it fudged federal mileage tests.

Nissan, which has tended to lag among the top-tier Japanese makers, also delivered strong numbers for the month, the company reporting an overall 3% increase – which included a 41% rise at the maker’s Infiniti luxury brand, and a more modest 10% jump for flagship Nissan models.

The holiday season appears to have been particularly good for Detroit’s automakers. With Chrysler in the lead, they collectively enjoyed their best December in five years.

Chrysler Group LLC reported a 10% increase in sales during December against relatively strong sales last year.

“Chrysler Group ended 2012 on a strong note with…our best December sales since 2007,” said Reid Bigland, President and CEO — Dodge Brand and Head of U.S. Sales. “Looking back on 2012, we were again one of the fastest growing automakers in the country with total sales up 21%.”

Few makers took as big a hit as the suburban Detroit-based Chrysler which, along with General Motors, barely survived a 2009 bankruptcy.  But since emerging from Chapter 11 under the control of Italy’s Fiat, it has steadily gained ground.

The Jeep brand’s 13% sales increase in the U.S. helped push its global sales to an all-time record in 2012. Seven Chrysler Group models set annual sales records in 2012.

“We also recorded 33 consecutive months of year-over-year sales growth and our strongest annual sales in five years. Finally, seven of our vehicles recorded their best ever annual sales in 2012 demonstrating how the quality, design and fuel efficiency of our product line up continues to resonate with consumers,” Bigland boasted.

Cross-town rival Ford Motor Co. also had reason to crow. Though its sales were up just a modest 1.9% year-over-year, it nonetheless said that yielded its strongest December since 2006. The Ford brand, in particular, ended 2012 with 2,168,015 vehicles sold – the only brand to top 2 million U.S. sales.

“Ford finished 2012 strong, with retail sales showing improved strength as more customers returned to dealer showrooms,” said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service. “Ford’s fuel-efficient cars and hybrid vehicles showed the most dramatic growth for the year, and we achieved our best year for commercial vehicle sales since 2008.”

Analysts have been watching the industry’s inventory numbers of late to see if unsold vehicles were beginning to pile up on dealer lots, which would indicate the growth of new vehicle sales was beginning to slow.  There were signs of that in November, especially at General Motors, where dealers were saddled with more than a 150-day supply of full-size Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups.

Mark Reuss, GM’s president for North American operations, acknowledged the maker had “misread” the competition and was forced to increase incentives in the hotly competitive pickup segment last month, but the move appears to have paid off.

General Motors Co.’s dealers delivered the company’s highest December sales in five years, with deliveries up 5% year-over-year to 245,733 vehicles.  December was also GM’s best retail sales month of 2012. Incentive spending was “competitive” with industry-wide levels, the maker contended.

“All four GM brands increased their sales year over year in December and we were strong across the board in cars, crossovers and pickup trucks,” said Kurt McNeil, vice president of U.S. sales operations.

(Sales of Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid hit new record – but fall short of goal. Click Here for that story.)

“We also achieved an important fuel economy milestone,” McNeil noted. “In December, GM became the first U.S. automaker to sell more than 1 million vehicles in a single year that get an EPA-estimated 30 mpg or better on the highway.”

With the rest of the industry expected to deliver similarly solid sales numbers for December, the closely watched Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate, or SAAR, is expected to push up to or above 15 million, analysts have forecast.

Meanwhile, a new forecast from R.L. Polk, a Detroit consultancy that closely tracks vehicle registrations, sees overall demand for 2013 reaching the 15.3 million market, with the number likely to grow to 16 million by 2015.

Significantly, that would be well short of the 17.5 million vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2005 but Polk senior analyst Tom Libby called that an “artificial” high created by give-away incentives that sharply reduced industry profitability and nearly destroyed the Detroit Big Three.  With capacity trimmed sharply during the recession, he says makers are now in a position to post record earnings on lower, but more natural, sales levels.

Paul A. Eisenstein contributed to this report.

Ford Motor U.S. Sales Up 33% in December

Full year sales are down 15%, a relative success.

by on Jan.05, 2010

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Ford's first full year share gain in 14 years.

Ford, Lincoln and Mercury dealers delivered 179,017 vehicles in December 2009, a 33% increase compared to one year ago.

Full-year sales totaled 1.62 million, down “only” 15% in a market off 21%, as Ford capitalized on the well-publicized bankruptcies of its severely wounded cross-town rivals, Chrysler Group, and General Motors Company.

As a result of its, relatively, good performance Ford posted its first full year market share gain in 14 years. Ford estimates its full-year 2009 U.S. total market share was about 15% – about one percentage point higher than in 2008.

While it is too soon to say that Ford is finally turned around after decades of decline, the Dearborn based company faces its best prospects in at least a decade and its stock  at ~+$10 a share is trading at a recent high. Just over a decade ago, Ford had five of the top ten selling cars in the U.S. Now it has two, the F-series pickup truck and the Ford Focus compact.

In December, Ford cars were up 42%, crossovers were up 51%, sport utilities were up 33%, and trucks and vans were up 18%. Among brands, Ford sales were up 37%, Lincoln sales were up 16% and Mercury sales were up 6%.

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Numbers!

Overall, the auto market itself  was up 15%. So the primary Ford brand outperformed or swam, as Lincoln treaded water, as Mercury, glub,  sank.

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Chrysler Group December U.S. Sales Decline 4%

Sales decrease 36% for the 2009 calendar year.

by on Jan.05, 2010

The newly reorganized company finished the year with 931,402 units sold, a decline of 36%.

Chrysler Group today reported December sales increased 36% compared with November 2009 as 20 of 24 vehicles posted sales increases for the same period.

The company also told dealers that virtually all of its vehicles will be covered by 5-year, 0% interest financing, and that taxpayer-owned GMAC had eased terms so that virtually every one will qualify.

U.S. sales for December of 86,523 units mean a decline 4% year-over-year. Overall industry figures for December are projected to come in at an estimated 11.3 million SAAR, which means the industry is up about 12% based on preliminary numbers, which underlines how far Chrysler has to go to turn things around.

The newly reorganized company finished the year with 931,402 units sold, a decline of 36% compared with 2008. Inventory is down 55% compared with December 2008, with 178,538 units in inventory, representing a 58-day supply.

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Results!

Chrysler’s five year plan unveiled in February calls for a tight control of inventory, and the end of forcing vehicles on dealers, which at one point in the last year resulted in 150 days of inventory on lots, rather than the norm 60 days. The plan also calls for small, but steady increases in sales going forward.

Chrysler also announced the expansion of its “Invest in America” partnership with more than 90 million Credit Union members in the United States. The Credit Union member-preferred pricing program has been expanded to include all 2010 model year vehicles.

Chart follows:

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December New Vehicle Sales to Increase Slightly

In comparison to an awful December 2008, that is.

by on Dec.23, 2009

Retail sales of new vehicles this December are expected to increase substantially compared with one year ago at  839,600 units, which represents a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of 9.1 million units.

December’s fleet sales are projected to be down 10% from one year ago, although they are climbing compared to earlier this year. As a result, total sales for December are projected to come in at 1,029,600 units, up 7% from December 2008.

“The market is continuing to improve, with the relative strength of December sales supporting a year-end rally,” said Gary Dilts, at J.D. Power and Associates, which gathers real-time transaction data from more than 8,900 franchisees across the United States.

Forecasts!

“The December selling rate is tracking at 11.2 million units, up nearly 1 million units from one year ago, which sets up 2010 for further recovery,” claims Dilts. (chart follows)

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