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US Auto Sales Roared in 2012 as Toyota Leads Pack

Jan. 3, 2013
Toyota reported a 27% gain in sales; Chrysler was up 21%; Ford increased 14% and GM grew 4%.

CHICAGO -- Toyota (IW 1000/8) and Chrysler outpacing their rivals with double-digit gains as Ford (IW 500/6) and General Motors (IW 500/4) posted modest growth on Thursday.

Ford estimated that total 2012 sales would come in at about 14.8 million vehicles when all automakers have reported, about a 14% gain from a year earlier.

It forecast that 2013 sales would rise to between 15 and 16 million vehicles in the United States, while global sales would come in between 80 and 85 million units.

Ford reported its best December sales since 2006, though they grew just 2% from the same month a year earlier to 214,222 vehicles.

The number two US automaker's 2012 sales rose 5% from 2011 to nearly 2.3 million vehicles on the strength of the Ford brand, which was the only nameplate to top 2 million in annual U.S. sales.

"Ford finished 2012 strong, with retail sales showing improved strength as more customers returned to dealer showrooms," said Ken Czubay, head of Ford sales.

"Ford's fuel-efficient cars and hybrid vehicles showed the most dramatic growth for the year, and we achieved our best year for commercial vehicle sales since 2008."

Ford's domination of the truck market helped boost sales as its popular F-Series pickup marked 31 consecutive years as America's best-selling vehicle with 645,316 units sold, a 10% gain from 2011.

GM Optimistic About 2103

GM estimated that 2012 sales would come in at about 14.5 million units and forecast somewhat more modest growth in the coming year. "GM's strong finish in 2012, the industry's momentum and the overall health of the U.S. economy make us optimistic about 2013," GM sales chief Kurt McNeil said.

"The budget compromise reached in Washington this week removes uncertainty and clears the way for full-year light vehicle sales to rise to the 15 million to 15.5 million unit range in 2013."

GM's sales grew 4% in 2012 to 2.6 million vehicles after it posted its best December in five years with deliveries up 5% year over year to 245,733.

"We also achieved an important fuel economy milestone," McNeil said..

"In December, GM became the first U.S. automaker to sell more than 1 million vehicles in a single year that get an EPA estimated 30 mpg or better on the highway."

Toyota reported a 27% gain in 2012 sales to nearly 2.1 million vehicles as December sales rose nine percent to 194,143 vehicles. More details were expected later Thursday.

Chrysler -- which has posted nearly three years of consecutive sales gains -- saw its sales jump 21% to nearly 1.7 million vehicles in 2012.

The third largest US automaker's December sales grew by a more modest 10% from a year earlier to 152,367 vehicles but nonetheless marked Chrysler's best December since 2007.

Chrysler estimated that its US market share had grown to 11.2 % in 2012 from 10.5 percent in 2011, which ought to place it squarely in fourth place behind General Motors, Ford and Toyota.

"Looking back on 2012, we were again one of the fastest growing automakers in the country," Chrysler sales chief Reid Bigland said.

"We also recorded 33-consecutive months of year-over-year sales growth and our strongest annual sales in five years."

Volkswagen -- which sees strong growth in the US market as key to its attempt at gaining the global sales crown -- also celebrated strong gains.

The German automaker's sales jumped 35% to 438,133 vehicles in 2012 after it posted its best December since 1970 with sales up 35% at 44,005.

"The Volkswagen brand delivered another important step in our long-term growth plan," said Jonathan Browning, chief of Volkswagen Group of America.

Volkswagen has more than doubled its 2009 volume after three consecutive years of double digit growth, he noted.

"With the addition of the all-new Jetta Turbo Hybrid, Beetle Convertible and our strong dealer network, we expect to continue to outpace the industry in 2013," Browning said.

Results from other automakers were expected later Thursday.

Mira Obermanm, AFP

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013

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