Best vehicle sales streak since 1973 boosts U.S. dealers

Auto Fleet

The sales rate was 13.6 million the previous December, according to researcher Autodata Corp. The U.S. averaged 16.8 million light-vehicle deliveries annually from 2000 to 2007, then dropped to 10.4 million in 2009, a 27-year-low, according to Autodata.

Americans have held onto their cars longer, pushing the average age of vehicles on U.S. roads to about 11 years, according to researchers Experian Automotive and R.L. Polk & Co.

“Autos are in the third or fourth inning of this recovery with a lot of room yet to go,” said David Kudla, who manages about $1 billion as chief executive officer of Mainstay Capital Management in Grand Blanc, Michigan, and recommends shares of GM and Ford Motor Co.

GM, the top-selling automaker in the U.S., probably increased deliveries in December by 2.1 percent, the average of 11 estimates. The Detroit-based automaker boosted incentives on Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups during the month to try to clear excess inventory ahead of introducing new versions of the trucks this year.

GM Pickups

“The last thing they need is to have significant volumes of the old pickup in showrooms in April,” Alan Baum, principal of auto-industry researcher Baum & Associates in West Bloomfield, Michigan, said in a telephone interview. “If they keep the incentives up, Wall Street will hammer them. The preferable course is to cut production.”

Ford, No. 2 in U.S. auto sales, likely will report a 1.2 percent increase in December deliveries, the average of 11 estimates. The automaker, based in Dearborn, Michigan, is spending more than $773 million to boost production across six plants in its home state, according to a Dec. 27 statement.

Toyota Motor Corp., poised to take back the title of world’s biggest automaker, probably sold 10 percent more vehicles in December, the average of eight estimates. The Toyota City, Japan-based automaker on Dec. 26 forecast a 2 percent increase in global sales this year to a record 9.91 million vehicles.

Chrysler Sales

Chrysler, majority owned by Fiat SpA, likely boosted deliveries in December by 7.6 percent, the average of 11 estimates. Fiat, based in Turin, Italy, said Dec. 20 that it will invest more than 1 billion euros ($1.32 billion) to build two compact sport-utility vehicles at an Italian factory that will export to markets including the U.S.

Analysts estimate that Nissan Motor Co. sales will climb 2.7 percent, the average of eight estimates. South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. may combine to sell 13 percent more vehicles in December compared with a year earlier, the average of six estimates.

Volkswagen AG, which exceeded its full-year target for U.S. sales of 500,000 vehicles in November, likely boosted sales in December by 31 percent, the average of four estimates.

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