GM Leads U.S. Automakers in December to Post the Best Sales Year Since ’08
By Tim Higgins | January 4, 2012
General Motors Co. (GM), Ford Motor Co. (F), and Chrysler Group LLC finished 2011 stronger than analysts predicted, as annual U.S. auto sales reached 12.8 million in the best year since 2008, when GM and Chrysler sought U.S. bailouts.
Auto sales increased as consumer confidence reached an eight-month high in December, and carmakers aired holiday ads and continued promotions started in November. The U.S. automakers rallied in 2011, two years after GM and Chrysler emerged from U.S.-backed bankruptcies. GM also reclaimed the top spot in world vehicle sales from Toyota Motor Corp.
“It’s been a phenomenal turnaround for the Big Three,” Michelle Krebs, an analyst with researcher Edmunds.com, said in an interview. “Chrysler and GM have the American taxpayer to thank for that, but in the end, it’s been a good investment.”
GM, Ford and Chrysler all gained share in 2011, ending the year controlling a combined 47.1 percent of the U.S. market, up from 45.2 percent in 2010, according to Autodata. For Ford, it was the third consecutive year of U.S. market share gains. Chrysler had the largest gain, rising to 10.7 percent of the market last year from 9.4 percent in 2010.
GM sold 2.5 million cars and light trucks in the U.S. last year, up 13 percent from 2010. In December, GM’s sales rose 4.5 percent to 234,351, topping the average 4.4 percent gain of eight estimates.
Chrysler’s 2011 sales soared 26 percent to 1.37 million. Chrysler’s December sales jumped 37 percent to 138,019 cars and light trucks, more than the average 33 percent estimate.
General Motors, based in Detroit, finished the year with a 53 percent increase in sales of the Cruze small car and a 12 percent rise in sales of Silverado pickups in December.
The company said industry sales have room to expand this year.
“We’re still in recession-like industry size,” Don Johnson, GM’s vice president of U.S. sales operations, said yesterday during a conference call with analysts. “The growth we’re seeing is still based on” a slow increase in jobs, he said.
Auburn Hills, Michigan-based Chrysler’s Jeep brand had a 41 percent increase, which included gains of 36 percent for Grand Cherokee and 39 percent for Wrangler SUVs.
The results “are really a great sign for Chrysler,” said Rebecca Lindland, a Norwalk, Connecticut-based analyst for IHS Automotive. “It’s a company that’s struggled in the past more than others.”
Chrysler had a target of boosting 2011 vehicle sales by 45 percent to 1.57 million vehicles. Chrysler’s full-year deliveries rose 26 percent to 1.37 million.