Pent-Up Demand Fuels Strong 2012 Car Sales


  • 2013 Dodge Dart

    2013 Dodge Dart

    Dodge Dart sales were up 36 percent month-over-month in December. | January 03, 2013

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Just the Facts:
  • The stage is set for another year of robust auto sales, as automakers on Thursday turned in impressive year-end results for 2012.
  • "Continued unleashing of pent-up demand supported by widely available low-cost credit, plus compelling new vehicles" fueled strong December sales, said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for Edmunds.com.
  • Chrysler's momentum in 2012 was one of the industry's top stories.

DETROIT — The stage is set for another year of robust auto sales, as automakers on Thursday turned in impressive year-end results for 2012.

"Continued unleashing of pent-up demand supported by widely available low-cost credit, plus compelling new vehicles" fueled strong December sales, said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for Edmunds.com. "U.S. car sales ended on a very high note with the seasonally adjusted annualized sales rate coming in north of 15 million vehicles, a level not seen since the Great Recession."

She added: "The stage is set for another year of quite robust sales."

However, overall sales are still down below the average of 16.7 million vehicles a year in the decade prior to 2008.

Chrysler's momentum in 2012 was one of the industry's top stories. It was the only major American automaker to grow market share last year, and its new Ram trucks are proving to be a hit with critics and shoppers.

Chrysler Group's U.S. market share grew to 11.2 percent in 2012, up from a 10.5 percent share in 2011, according to the automaker. Chrysler reported its best December sales since 2007 and said full-year sales were up 21 percent.

Dodge Dart sales were up 36 percent month-over-month in December.

General Motors struggled to hold up its end in 2012, said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds.com senior analyst.

"Its year-over-year growth is well under the industry average and the company couldn't hold on to market share gains it enjoyed in 2011," Caldwell noted.

GM sales rose 5 percent last month and 4 percent for all of 2012.

Ford sales for the year rose 5 percent. The Dearborn automaker can once again hold up the Ford F-Series as the best-selling truck in 2012.

"But its dominance slowed noticeably by the end of the year," said Krebs. "F-Series sales were virtually flat in December and Ford's truck sales overall were down more than 7 percent. Stronger competition from Chevy and Ram is making Ford look a little less invincible these days."

Ford said its small-car sales jumped 29 percent to 316,006 last year. Ford Focus sales gained 40 percent in 2012.

American Honda posted annual vehicle sales of 1,422,785 in 2012, up 24 percent compared with 2011. The Honda Civic set an all-time December sales record for the automaker with sales of 33,118 units, up 61 percent from a year ago. Sales of the 2013 Honda Accord were up 66 percent from December 2011.

Toyota reported its year-end 2012 sales were 2,082,504, up 26.6 percent.

Nissan North America reported record U.S. calendar year sales of 1,141,656 units versus 1,042,534 in 2011, an increase of 9.5 percent and the first time that the Nissan brand sold more than 1 million units in a calendar year.

"Nissan had a record-breaking 2012, led by strong totals for Altima, Rogue and Versa," said Al Castignetti, vice president of Nissan division. "Our aggressive product launch schedule with five new core vehicles in under two years positions us well for a successful 2013."

Volkswagen reported its best calendar year since 1973. VW sales for the year rose 35 percent to more than 438,000 units.

Edmunds says: Lots of smiling faces in the auto industry as 2012 turns out to be a banner year.

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