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December 2012 Auto Sales Surge

January 4th, 2013

A strong December capped a year of solid growth for the U.S. auto industry, as holiday car shoppers reacted to easily available credit and large discounts on pickup trucks by buying up 1.4 million cars and trucks, an increase of 9%. Total light vehicle sales in 2012 rang in at 14.5 million units, an increase of 13.4% over 2011 and the best year since 2007.

The Volkswagen brand continues its quest for world sales domination with startling growth, up an industry-leading 35.1% year-over-year with 438,134 units sold (excluding Audi and Porsche). Across all their brands, Toyota and Honda enjoyed strong growth as well, up 26.6% and 24% with 2.08 million and 1.42 million units sold, respectively, as the two automakers recovered from a 2011 marked by natural disasters and production shortages. Among the Americans, Chrysler continued to pace the field, up 20.6% in 2012 with 1.65 million units.

But at Ford and GM, growth underperformed the industry as the two automakers gave back ground to the Japanese that they had captured in disaster-battered 2011. Ford was up just 4.7% at 2.24 million units, while GM rose 3.7% at 2.6 million units.

As for the rest in 2012: Nissan sales rose 9.5% to 1.14 million units, Kia rose 14.9% to 557,599 units, Hyundai was up 8.9% with 703,007 cars and trucks, Mazda rose 10.6% with 277,048 units, Subaru rallied up a full 26% with 336,441 vehicles, Mitsubishi tanked down 26.9% with 57,790 cars, Volvo was flat at a 1.3% gain with 68,125 units, and bankrupt American Suzuki finished with 25,358 units sold for a loss of 4.7%.

Among the German luxury brands, Mercedes-Benz narrowly edged out BMW for the #1 spot with 295,013 units, up 12.7%. BMW sales rose 13.5% to 281,460 units, while Audi moved 139,310 cars for a gain of 18.5%. Sales at Porsche rose 20.7% at 35,043 cars.

Experts at Polk Research predict sales growth will continue throughout 2013, with estimated annual sales for this year pegged at 15.4 million cars and trucks. The best year in recent memory was 2005, when the industry sold around 17 million vehicles.

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