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2012 Culminates with Resilient December U.S. Auto Sales

1/4/2013
Despite economic uncertainty in the United States related to the over-the-wire settlement of a deal to prevent the country from going off the so-called fiscal cliff, plus a lag in recent consumer confidence indices, car and light-truck owners continued to replace their aging vehicles--which are 11 years old, on average--with new ones at a faster clip in December than in the same month of 2011.

When sales totals are completed, December light-vehicle deliveries will increase at least 13% from a year ago, based on J.D. Power analysis from the Power Information Network(R) (PIN) and strategic partner LMC Automotive and media reports. Some of the positive news is due to a boost from consumers replacing vehicles totaled or damaged in late October's Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast.

In early automaker reports, Volkswagen Group sold nearly 40% more new vehicles this year vs. a year ago. The VW brand was helped by strong sales of newer models, such as the U.S.-made Passat and the Jetta. The Chrysler Group also posted a near 15% gain in December, and the company stated that 2012 calendar-year U.S. sales were the strongest in five years. Dodge Journey and new Dart sales helped the brand outpace last December's sales by more than one-fourth.

In other early reports, major automakers, including General Motors and Ford Motor Co., posted single-digit sales increases, while Toyota Group's deliveries were up more than 13% (adjusted for one less selling day this year vs. 2011).* Toyota said in a statement that its strong sales in 2012 were mainly due to the introduction of 19 new or updated models.

Hybrids remained strong sellers for several automakers, including Toyota. The Prius family outperformed the industry in December. It can also be noted that GM's Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid (PHEV) deliveries climbed more than 72% from a year ago.

There was solid growth from Japan's Honda Group--deliveries rose 31% from December 2011. In early reports, it was likely that Hyundai and Kia might outsell Nissan Group in December. Yet, when adding up calendar-year totals, Nissan Group might surpass the two South Korean brands.

GM and Ford both celebrated stronger light-truck sales in December. The Ford F-Series remained the best-selling model in the U.S. market for more than three decades. Chevrolet and GMC brands boosted sales of their pickups with some customer incentives. Chrysler's Ram pickup brand also posted strong December sales.

Among the European brands, BMW and Daimler Groups reported strong double-digit gains in December vs. last year, and it appeared that BMW's near-40% increase outdistanced a smaller double-digit increase for Daimler in December. In the luxury sales race, it looked like BMW would finish ahead of the others for the year, with Mercedes-Benz and Lexus just behind. December remained a strong month for luxury vehicle deliveries, as anticipated earlier in J.D. Power analysis.

According to a mid-December 2012 forecast update, total light-vehicle sales (retail and fleet) are slated to rise nearly 14% from a year ago on a selling-day adjusted basis.*

*There were 26 selling days in December 2012 vs. 27 in December 2011.

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