GM joins Chrysler topping estimates as carmakers boost U.S.

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.

Buyers Returning

“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.

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