DETROIT (AP) — The holiday weekend was good to U.S. automakers, as sales reports indicate the auto industry is on track to beat strong numbers from a year ago.
Chrysler’s U.S. sales rose a surprising 16 percent in November, while General Motors posted a 14 percent gain. Nissan sales rose 11 percent, while Toyota was up 10 percent. Ford notched a 7 percent gain and Hyundai sales rose just under 5 percent. Of major automakers, only Volkswagen and Honda reported sales drops. VW was off 16 percent, while Honda sales were down less than 1 percent.
“Industry sales in November picked up after Thanksgiving, contributing to the best sales pace of the year,” said Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president and general manager.
Kurt McNeil, GM’s U.S. sales chief, said November U.S. sales are likely to run at an annual rate higher than 16 million, a strong pace he attributed to better conditions for consumers.
“The economy is creating jobs and household wealth,” he said. “Energy costs are dropping and credit is available and affordable. All of this bodes well for future growth.”
Small crossover SUVs like the new Jeep Cherokee were once again the stars for the month. The crossovers continued to gobble up market share during November, gaining two full percentage points over a year ago to 15.5 percent of U.S. sales, said Erich Merkle, Ford’s top sales analyst.
The gains came at the expense of small and midsize cars. Midsize cars fell one point to 14.5 percent, while small cars dropped a point to around 20 percent, Merkle said. Both Ford and GM said competitors offered big discounts on their small and midsize cars and predicted that trend would continue.
The Cherokee notched the rare achievement of sales of more than 10,000 in its first full month on the market.
“That is a big number,” said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of auto sales forecasting for LMC Automotive, an industry consulting firm.