Ford, Chrysler gains trail estimates as cold snap slows shoppers

Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC said December U.S. sales rose less than analysts’ estimated, as cold weather may have kept buyers off of dealer lots at the end of the best sales year since 2007.

Ford light-vehicle sales rose 1.7%, compared with a 4.3% increase that was the average of nine estimates in a Bloomberg survey. Chrysler deliveries rose 5.7%, extending a streak of monthly gains to 45, while falling short of analysts’ estimates of 8.4%.

“The sales pace at the beginning of the month was slower than expected as a lot of places were hit by bad weather,” Michelle Krebs, an auto analyst with researcher Edmunds.com, said in an interview. “Dealers thought sales would come in bigger than usual in that last week of the month and it turned out the weather wasn’t so great then, either.”

Ford car sales fell 9.3%, as only the Fusion, which set a December record, and Mustang increased deliveries. Utilities and trucks led the gains, as the Escape increased 22%, to 24,462 deliveries, and the F-Series pickup rose 8.4% to 74,592. The company said it had its best U.S. sales year since 2006 at a total of 2.49 million vehicles.

Chrysler, helped by the new Jeep Cherokee, increased to 161,007 cars and light truck sales in December, the Auburn Hills, Michigan-based company said today in a statement. The average of six analyst estimates in a survey by Bloomberg News was for an 8.4% increase. Turin, Italy-based Fiat said Jan. 1 it had reached a $4.35 billion deal with a union trust to buy all Chrysler stock it doesn’t already own.

Jeep Strength

Cherokee climbed 48% from November to 15,038 in its third month in the market, helping Chrysler extend its streak of year-over-year sales gains. Deliveries of Ram pickups gained 11% from a year earlier to 33,405, and sales of Town & Country minivans rose 5% to 9,737. The Ram pickup gain made for its best December sales since 2004.

“All I can say is Jeep, Jeep, Jeep,” Krebs said. “Car shoppers have forgiven or forgotten that the Cherokee had a stalled launch and they’re buying it in big numbers.”

U.S. automakers’ breadth of offerings are drawing more buyers to brands as diverse as Dodge, Chrysler Group’s value line, and General Motors Co.’s Cadillac luxury marque. U.S. car and light truck sales in December are projected to climb 3.8% to 1.41 million, the average of nine estimates. That would push deliveries for the full year to more than 15.6 million, the most since 2007.

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