The 2016 Gen Six Camaro is introduced at an October event Bill Pugliano, Getty Images

US Auto Sales Accelerate in November

More than 1.3 million vehicles were sold in November during what was the best month in 14 years. For the year, GM leads the way with 2.8 million vehicles sold, with FCA and Toyota up in November, Ford flat, Honda down and VW way down.

While manufacturing production dropped to a three-year low Tuesday, U.S. auto sales continued to go up in November, according to industry data.

Easy lending terms and better economic conditions have been fueling auto sales as consumers once again have the confidence to replace aging vehicles they held onto following the 2008 economic crash.

“If December remains a healthy sales month, we’re on track for an all-time record year in new-car volume,” Kelley Blue Book senior analyst Karl Brauer said.

About 1.32 million new vehicles were sold last month, the best number since 2001, Autodata reported. (U.S. auto sales peaked in 2000 at 17.4 million vehicles.) Total industry sales rose 1.4% in November from a year ago and were up 5.8% for the year to date compared with the same period in 2014. Month-over-month, sales fell 9.0%.

The sales pace in November jumped to an annualized rate of 18.2 million vehicles from 17.1 million a year ago.

GM sales rose nearly 2% over November 2014 at 229,296 units and are up 5% for the year at 2.8 million vehicles. The gains were fueled by strong demand for GM’s smaller crossover sport utility vehicles.

“The phenomenal growth of crossovers in a record-setting market is the biggest sales story of 2015,” GM sales chief Kurt McNeil said in a statement.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) posted its best November sales in 15 years, with a 3% gain to 175,974 vehicles. Strong truck and SUV sales made up for a 22% plunge in sales of cars like the Dart, Avenger and Alfa 500 and 500L.

“The favorable ... environment of low interest rates, oil prices, and unemployment … continues to be a significant driver of FCA sales,” sales chief Reid Bigland said.

Toyota sales rose 3%% to 189,517 vehicles in November.

“The auto industry is on track to exceed 2015 expectations,” said Bill Fay, general manager for the Toyota Division.

Ford sales in the month were essentially flat over a year earlier at 187,794 cars and trucks. But they also were up 5% in the year to date, at 2.4 million vehicles.

Honda sales fell 5% to 115,441 in November but are up 2% in the year to date at 1.4 million. Nissan sales rose 4% in November to 107,083 vehicles and are up 6% compared with first 11 months of 2014 at 1.3 million.

And Then There’s Volkswagen

VW froze sales of diesel car models in the United States on Nov. 4 after new accusations on the use of software that cheats on emissions tests. The suspension affects about 20% of its typical sales, but it appears the emissions-fooling scandal also impacted non-diesel models.

Total sales fell by nearly 8,000 vehicles from a year ago to 23,882 units in November: a whopping 25%.

The automaker sold 5,462 TDI diesel vehicles in November 2014, a spokeswoman told AFP.

“Volkswagen was lucky to hold its own in the months immediately following the revelation of the emissions problems, but its luck on sales ran out in November,” said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for Autotrader. ”Volkswagen will take a long time to dig out from under this, but the very first step needs to be a clear and comprehensive plan for fixing it, and that does not appear to be forthcoming soon.”

VW’s U.S. sales for the year-to-date were down 4% at 318,484.

As has been written here and elsewhere so many times these last three months, Volkswagen has been engulfed in scandal since September, when the German automaker admitted more than 11 million vehicles worldwide equipped with smaller 2.0-liter diesel engines had “defeat” software designed to cheat on emissions tests.

The world’s No. 2 automaker faces regulatory and criminal investigations in several countries, including Germany and the United States, and potentially billions of dollars in fines.

By Mira Oberman

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015

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