Volkswagen, American Honda and BMW Group led December sales gains as the auto industry celebrated a healthy end to 2012.
VW saw its December sales leap 35%, while its sales for the year also increased by 35%, thanks to new models of the Passat and Jetta.
American Honda posted a sales increase of 26%, with Honda Civic sales up a record 61% from 2011. Additionally, sales of the 2013 Accord also increased 66% from last December. American Honda sales were up 24% from the previous year.
Automakers sold 1.4 million cars and light trucks in December, 9% more than the same month last year with a seasonally adjusted sales rate (SAAR) of 15.4 million. Altogether, carmakers sold 14.49 million light vehicles in the United States in 2012, an increase of 13% from 2011 and the highest level since 2007.
Pent-up demand, year-end deals, low-rate financing and easing credit terms drove the industry’s sales.
“People are much more confident about jobs; banks and other credit institutions are much more willing to lend,” said Mustafa Mohatarem, GM’s chief economist. “You’re seeing the customer continue to come back into the marketplace.” So reported by David Philips of Automotive News.
Subaru said its sales rose 9% in December and 26% in 2012, while BMW experienced a 35% sales boost in December and a 14% increase for the entire year.
December was also a record month for Audi, a company that saw its sales increase by 17% and eclipsed its previous sales record set a year earlier by 19%.
Chrysler Group led the Detroit Three with a 10% sales jump — its best December sales month since 2007. Chrysler’s overall sales for 2012 leapt 21%.
Ford and General Motors both experienced modest December gains with increases of 2% and 5% respectively. Ford saw 2012 sales increase by 5% over 2011, while GM’s sales rose 4%. GM noted strong retail demand and higher deliveries of cars, crossovers and pickup trucks for the company’s December results.
Although Kia Motor’s sales fell for the first time in two years with a decrease of 10% in December, it announced its best annual sales total in company history, a 15% increase over 2011. Hyundai’s sales moved up 5% in December, with a 9% total for 2012.
Nissan also posted a drop in sales with a 1.6% decrease from December 2011, but a near-10% increase for 2012 overall. It was also the first time Nissan sold more than 1 million units in a calendar year.
Automakers Suzuki and Mitsubishi also experienced sales drops in December with decreases of 24% and 18% respectively. Suzuki announced its exit from the U.S. auto market in late 2012 and experienced a 5% decrease in overall sales compared to 2011, while Mitsubishi’s 2012 sales declined 27%.
Automakers and analysts expect U.S. auto sales to continue rebounding in 2013, although at a slower pace, with some forecasts as high as 15.6 million light vehicles.
According to research firm Polk, sales in 2013 will be fueled by new-vehicle redesigns and new-model introductions. Key segments for restylers to watch in 2013 include the large pickup segment, which Polk predicts will likely grow due to a number of new-vehicle launches. Polk also expects the mid-size sedan, compact and subcompact segments to grow and gain market share.