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U.S. Auto Sales Accelerate to Best Pace of 2011; Toyota Gains

Toyota’s First Sales Gain Since April
Toyota Motor Corp., posting its first monthly sales increase since April, joined Chrysler Group LLC and Nissan Motor Co. in topping analysts’ estimates that called for the industry’s best month of the year. Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

Dec. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Toyota Motor Corp., posting its first monthly sales increase since April, joined Chrysler Group LLC and Nissan Motor Co. in topping analysts’ estimates, leading to the best U.S. light-vehicle sales pace in more than two years.

Toyota deliveries rose 6.7 percent in November to 137,960 cars and light trucks, the Toyota City, Japan-based automaker said in a statement. Chrysler sales soared 45 percent to 107,172 and Nissan increased 19 percent to 85,182. Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co., boosted by demand for F-Series and Silverado pickups, also posted gains.

Four of the six largest automakers by U.S. sales beat expectations, boosting industry sales to a 13.6 million seasonally adjusted annualized rate, according to Autodata Corp. The pace exceeded the 13.4 million average estimate of 14 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg and is the best month since sales were helped by “cash for clunkers” in August 2009.

“Consumers have been waiting for this,” Jessica Caldwell, an analyst for the researcher, said today in a phone interview. “Cars are getting old, and people are getting to the point where they need to replace them. There’s recession fatigue and people want to buy. We’re getting tired of being in this saving pattern.”

Sales of Toyota’s Prius hybrid rose 49 percent to 15,208, while deliveries of its Camry sedan climbed 13 percent to 23,440. The automaker exceeded five analysts’ average estimate for a 5 percent increase in November deliveries.

Jeep Surges

Chrysler, the automaker controlled by Fiat SpA, topped the 37 percent gain predicted by eight analysts as its Jeep brand sales rose 50 percent. Nissan deliveries exceeded five analysts’ average estimate for a 12 percent rise.

Ford sales rose 13 percent, beating estimates for a 10 percent increase, while GM’s gain of 6.9 percent missed estimates for a 7.4 percent gain, both the average of eight estimates. Ford’s F-Series pickup deliveries climbed 24 percent and GM’s Silverado sales increased 34 percent.

“You’re seeing some elements of housing stabilize, the commercial sector is showing a bit of growth, gas prices have moderated and there’s some support on those vehicles from an incentive standpoint,” Paul Ballew, chief economist for Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., said in a phone interview.

Ford plans to build 675,000 cars and trucks in 2012’s first quarter, a 3 percent increase from the year-earlier period, according to a company statement. Ford’s sport-utility vehicle sales climbed 29 percent, while car deliveries fell 8.8 percent, with the Focus declining for a fifth-consecutive month.

Away From Cars

“We’re moving away from cars because we are finding crossovers that exceed our miles per gallon expectations,” Rebecca Lindland, an analyst with researcher IHS Automotive, said in a phone interview. “We’ve discovered we don’t have to compromise on space to get fuel economy. The Explorer and Escape are perfect examples.”

Sales for Honda Motor Co., Japan’s third-largest automaker, missed estimates, dropping 6.4 percent to 83,925 in November, the company said in a statement on its website. The automaker cited reduced production at North American plants resulting from floods in Thailand that disrupted parts supply. Analysts expected Tokyo-based Honda to report a 2.6 percent increase, the average of five estimates.

Toyota’s Supply

Toyota’s inventories are recovering from Thailand’s floods and the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Bob Carter, vice president of U.S. sales, said today in a conference call.

“We’re confident our volumes and our share will recover throughout 2012,” Carter said.

Hyundai Motor Co., South Korea’s largest automaker, and its affiliate Kia Motors Corp., combined to sell 29 percent more vehicles than a year earlier, beating three analysts’ average estimate for a 24 percent increase. Kia’s Optima sedan sales surged more than sixfold to 9,533.

Consumers spent a record $52.4 billion during the holiday weekend, excluding autos, according to the National Retail Federation. Consumer confidence surged in November by the most in more than eight years, and the portion of consumers planning to buy a new vehicle within six months climbed to the highest since April, data from The Conference Board showed Nov. 29.

“We’re encouraged by the industry’s recent performance and the developments that we’ve seen in the economy,” Don Johnson, vice president of U.S. sales, said on a conference call. The Conference Board’s figures “drives even more support for our belief in the continued growing of the U.S. economy next year.”

GM’s Pickups

GM’s inventory of full-size pickups rose on a selling-day basis to 105 days as of Nov. 30, from 104 days at the end of October, the Detroit-based automaker said today in a statement. Full-size truck supply was 202,720 at the end of November, from 207,596 as of Oct. 31.

Ford’s sales accelerated through the end of the month, culminating with the best results the day after Thanksgiving, which retailers call “Black Friday,” said Ken Czubay, Ford’s U.S. sales chief.

“The dealers enjoyed the same uplift that the other merchants enjoyed,” Czubay said today on a conference call.

GM fell 1.6 percent to $20.96 at the close in New York. Ford fell less than 0.1 percent to $10.59.

Chrysler’s deliveries of its 200 midsize sedan increased to 8,065 in November, almost six times the year-earlier sales of the Sebring model that it replaced, the company said in a statement. Sales of Nissan’s Rogue compact SUV rose 27 percent to 10,845, according to an e-mailed statement. Volkswagen AG’s U.S. sales unit said deliveries of its VW brand surged 41 percent to 28,412, boosted by demand for its Passat sedan.

Sales Pace

U.S. light-vehicle sales exceeded a 13 million annualized rate for the third consecutive month as Toyota and Honda inventories recover from Japan’s tsunami in March, which disrupted auto-parts supply and vehicle output. The sales pace failed to exceed 12.2 million in the prior four months.

Industrywide car inventory rebounded to 53 days supply at the beginning of November, from 43 days a month earlier, according to LMC Automotive. That’s the biggest sequential increase since February, said Jeff Schuster, a Troy, Michigan-based analyst.

“It looks like the close of the month was definitely a strong one and it’s setting up a positive story for the industry as the year closes,” Schuster said today in a phone interview.

The U.S. averaged annual sales of 16.8 million vehicles from 2000 to 2007, according to Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey-based Autodata. Deliveries may rise about 9.5 percent to 12.7 million cars and light trucks this year, the average of 18 analysts’ estimates in a Bloomberg survey in August.

To contact the reporter on this story: Craig Trudell in Southfield, Michigan at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at

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