General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC posted December U.S. vehicle sales gains that exceeded analysts’ estimates, completing a year of surprising growth that helped propel the country’s economy.
U.S. deliveries of cars and light trucks climbed 10 percent for Chrysler, 4.9 percent for GM and 1.6 percent for Ford, according to company statements. The automakers topped average estimates in a Bloomberg survey of 11 analysts. Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. all trailed estimates.
Chrysler, which analysts predicted would lose market share in 2012, increased annual sales more than any major automaker other than Toyota and Honda as the industry logged its best year in a half-decade. Those automakers joined GM and Ford in adding shifts and jobs at their U.S. factories, contributing an outsized boost to the nation’s economic growth.
“If you want to hang your hat on something that’s really improved in our industry, it’s the North American auto business,” George Magliano, senior principal economist for IHS Automotive in New York, said in a telephone interview. “It’s a shining piece of U.S. manufacturing.”
GM and Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford, the two largest automakers by U.S. sales, both issued 2013 forecasts today calling for the industry to exceed 15 million deliveries. Analysts projected 15.1 million annual light-vehicle sales, the average estimate of 18 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.
“People are much more confident about jobs; banks and other credit institutions are much more willing to lend,” Mustafa Mohatarem, chief economist for Detroit-based GM, said today on a conference call. “You’re seeing the customer continue to come back into the marketplace.”
U.S. automakers topped estimates for gains of 7.6 percent by Chrysler, 2.1 percent by GM and 1.2 percent by Ford in Bloomberg’s survey.
Toyota’s December sales rose 9 percent, according to its website, trailing eight analysts’ average estimate for a 10 percent rise. The Toyota City, Japan-based releases deliveries by model in a statement later today.
Honda sales climbed 26 percent, the company said in a statement, missing the 32 percent increase that was the average of eight analysts’ estimates. Nissan deliveries slipped 1.6 percent, according to an e-mailed statement, falling short of the average estimate for a 2.7 percent gain.
GM’s full-year sales gained 3.7 percent to almost 2.6 million, the automaker said in a statement on its website. Ford’s light-vehicle sales increased 4.7 percent to 2.24 million and Chrysler’s climbed 21 percent to 1.65 million.
Toyota’s annual deliveries rose 27 percent to 2.08 million and Honda’s climbed 24 percent to 1.42 million. Nissan, based in Yokohama, Japan, set a new company record for U.S. sales with 1.14 million, up 9.5 percent.
Industrywide car and light truck sales in the U.S. probably rose 9.8 percent in December, according to a Bloomberg survey of analysts. That would push deliveries for the full year to 14.5 million and cap a third-straight annual gain of at least 10 percent. The industry last recorded such a streak in 1973.
GM and Ford climbed to their highest closing prices since July 2011. GM rose 2.4 percent to $29.82 at 4 p.m. New York time and Ford advanced 2 percent to $13.46.
Chrysler, which last year announced plans to add about 4,150 jobs across five plants, entered December with 11.4 percent market share, according to researcher Autodata Corp. The Auburn Hills, Michigan-based automaker’s increase of 0.7 percentage point from a year earlier trailed advances of 1.7 percentage points by Toyota and 0.8 percentage point for Tokyo-based Honda.
Increased production to meet growing demand within the industry has been a bright spot for the U.S. Autos contributed 14 percent of the 2.2 percent average rate of growth for gross domestic product in the recovery that began in the third quarter of 2009 to the third quarter of 2012, according to the most recent data available from the Commerce Department.
Spurred by year-end promotions and lingering replacement demand following superstorm Sandy, U.S. light-vehicle sales in December probably climbed to almost 1.37 million, the average of estimates by 10 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.
GM and Chrysler predicted that the annualized industry sales rate, adjusted for seasonal trends, may have topped 15.4 million for December, the average of 15 analysts’ estimates in Bloomberg’s survey.
Chrysler projected a 15.8 million industry sales pace for December in its statement today, including medium- and heavy- duty vehicles, which typically account for at least 200,000 deliveries per year. GM estimated a light-vehicle rate of 15.6 million in its statement.
The analysts’ projected pace for December almost matches November’s 15.5 million sales rate, the best month for industrywide deliveries since January 2008.
The sales rate was 13.6 million the previous December, according to Autodata. 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, Autodata figures show.
Volkswagen AG, led by a more than doubling of sales for its Passat sedan, boosted deliveries by its Volkswagen and Audi brands in December by 30 percent, according to company statements. The average of four analysts’ estimates was for an increase of 31 percent. The company exceeded its full-year target for U.S. sales of 500,000 vehicles in November and finished the year with 577,443.
GM, the top-selling automaker in the U.S., boosted incentives on its trucks last month after warning it may end the year with more Chevrolet Silverados and GM Sierras than it planned. At the end of December, GM had 221,649 full-size pickups on hand, almost reaching its year-end target of 200,000 to 220,000. Deliveries of the Chevrolet Silverado rose 6.1 percent to 50,699 in December.
Sales of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, marketed by GM as its top model for fuel-saving technology, surged 72 percent last month to 2,633.
Ford said sales of the Escape sport-utility vehicle, recalled four times since it was introduced in May, fell 21 percent to 20,131. Ford Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields said last month that the recalls, which have included defects that could cause engine fires, weren’t hurting sales of the Escape, the automaker’s top selling SUV.
Hyundai Motor Co. said in a statement that its sales rose 17 percent last month to 59,435. Combined with deliveries for affiliate Kia Motors Corp., South Korea’s two largest automakers increased sales 4.7 percent last month to 98,613. That was less than the 13 percent estimate for the Seoul-based companies that was the average of six estimates.
Annual combined sales for Hyundai and Kia rose 11 percent to a record 1.26 million cars and light trucks.