Fueled by holiday and year-end discounts, as well as the introduction of new models, automakers finished 2010 on a high note by posting the year’s best monthly sales in December.
U.S. light vehicle demand climbed 11 percent last month to 1.1 million units--the best month of the year on a unit basis. Still, it was one of the weaker percentage increases of the year because of a tough comparison to December 2009, one of that year’s strongest months.
Most every automaker gained sales in December, a month highlighted by a 37 percent surge for Hyundai-Kia and a 28 percent advance at Nissan North America. Toyota Motor Corp. was the only company to record a decline, down 6 percent.
Overall, U.S. light vehicle sales rose 11 percent to 11.59 million units last year from 10.43 million in 2009--when demand fell to the lowest point in 27 years. It was the industry’s first annual U.S. sales gain since 2005.
Industry sales last year remained almost a third fewer than the 16.8 million annual average from 2000 to 2007, according to Autodata Corp.
Auto makers and analysts predict more growth in 2011 as the U.S. economy slowly recovers.
Ford Motor Co. anticipates U.S. sales of 12.5 million this year. GM is expecting U.S. industry sales to rise more than 10 percent from 2010.
"The U.S. economy will be stronger and grow more in 2011," said Don Johnson, GM's vice president of U.S. sales operations. "The jobs story remains mixed. The weakest link continues to be the housing market."