Robust December Car Sales Set Stage for Strong 2013

Robust December Car Sales Set Stage for Strong 2013

Robust December car sales closed 2012 on a high note and positioning the U.S. auto industry for a strong 2013.

December sales totaled 1,355,183 vehicles, up 9 percent from December 2011, for a Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR) of sales at 15.3 million units. That was slightly lower than November 2012's 15.5 million units, which had the benefit of spillover sales deferred and created from Hurricane Sandy a month earlier, but ahead of December 2011's 13.55 SAAR. December sales pushed 2012 full-year sales to 14.5 million vehicles, a 13-percent increase from 2011's12.8 million vehicles and the best sales since 2007.

December's story was the same story told all year and will be continue this year: unleashing of pent-up demand as cars and trucks on the roads are the oldest in recent memory; vehicle sales supported by wider availability of credit; and compelling new and highly fuel-efficient vehicles enticing consumers to dealer showrooms.

2013 Chevrolet Sonic

General Motors: General Motors: GM reported 2012 sales of 2,595,717 vehicles, up nearly 4 percent from 2011 but below the industry's double-digit increase. Three of GM's four divisions - Chevrolet (up 4 percent), GMC (up 4 percent) and Buick (up 3 percent) - posted year over year gains; Cadillac, which is in the throes of reinventing itself replacing old models with all-new ones, declined 2 percent. GM closed the year with its best December in five years, selling 245,733 vehicles, up 5 percent from December 2011. GM claimed December was also its best retail sales month of 2012 as the automaker tries to lower fleet sales, particularly to daily rental companies. GM said its retail volume was up 38 percent from November, while incentive spending was "competitive" with industry levels.

"In a strong year for the auto industry overall, GM struggled to hold up its end in 2012," said Edmunds' Caldwell. "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. The biggest disappointment is Cadillac, which was GM's only brand to report fewer year-over-year sales. But GM's weakness in 2012 may well prove to be its strength in 2013; Cadillac should have a stronger year this year with the help of its newest products. The new XTS and ATS already made up nearly one third of Cadillac sales in December."

Indeed, while Cadillac was down for the year, December suggested the luxury marque is on the right path, with sales up 12 percent from December 2011. The new ATS, on sale only since late summer, chipped in 2,979 sales in December; 7,008 for the year. Similarly, the new XTS, on sale since June, contributed just shy of 3,000 units of sales in December and more than 15,000 for the year. However, sales of the CTS, which will be replaced this year, were down nearly 38 percent in December and 15 percent for the year. SRX sales also dropped by 13 percent in December and up a scant 1 percent for the year.

Likewise, Buick gained less than 2 percent for the year but had sales up 10 percent in December, thanks only to 4,820 sales of the Verano, which went on sale early in 2012, and the freshened Enclave crossover, which was up 9 percent in December but off 3 percent for the year. The rest of Buick's line is in decline. The small Encore crossover goes on sale early this year and could enjoy a sales trajectory similar to that of the Verano.

Chevrolet had a mixed performance from its various models. On the plus side, Chevrolet's volume leaders posted gains: Cruze, up 3 percent for the year at 237,758 units and up 27 percent in December at 21,230 sales; Equinox crossover, up 13 percent for the year at 218,621 units and up 8 percent in December at 19,551 sales. The Sonic small car gained 415 percent for the year over the Aveo it replaced at 81,247 units; it was up 4 percent in December at nearly 6,000 units. The new Spark microcar kicked in another 2,229 units. Volt sales soared 206 percent for the year to 23,461 units and were up 72 percent in December to 2,633 sold.

Sales of the Silverado pickup were flat for the year at 418,312 units and up 6 percent in December at 50,669 sold; the Silverado is replaced in the second quarter this year with the Silverado-based SUVs following later. The Impala, with sales down for the year and month, is revamped for 2013 as is the Corvette, which had sales up for both the year and month.

GMC sales rose 4 percent for the year and 5 percent for December. Terrain was GMC's star with sales up 18 percent for the year and 49 percent for December. Volume-leading Sierra had a 5 percent increase in sales for the year and 13-percent climb for December. Like the Silverado, it will be replaced in 2013.

2013 Ford Focus

Ford: At 2,250,165, Ford Motor Co.'s 2012 sales surpassed 2011 by 5 percent - as December, 2012 sales of 214,222, up 2 percent, marked Ford's best December since 2006. Sales for each of Ford's major product divisions - cars, utility vehicles and trucks - were better than in 2011, while with a few exceptions, most individual models also fared better than the prior year. One significant drag was the Lincoln luxury-car division, where sales for the year of 82,150 represented a decline of 4 percent, a particularly glaring decline in a total market that was up by double digits in 2012.

After a December that saw sales increase 27 percent, annual performance in the car unit was led by the Focus compact, for which annual sales were up a giant 40 percent to 245,922. In a backhanded feat, Focus became Ford's best-selling car nameplate in 2012 after sales for the Fusion midsize sedan - despite the launch of an all-new model - actually slid compared with 2011, declining 3 percent to 241,263. The Mustang pony car turned in a solid gain of almost 18 percent for the year, finding 82,995 buyers in 2012. The Taurus large car was up 4 percent to 66,066, but the Fiesta subcompact, likely a donor of shoppers to the larger Focus, dropped a significant 17.2 percent compared with 2011, to 56,775 sales.

Although some utility-vehicle sales suffered in December, all of Ford's utility-vehicle nameplates were up for the year, the midsize Explorer leading the way with a 16.7-percent gain compared with 2011, moving 158,344 units. The company's volume-leading utility vehicle was the smaller Escape, however, where a mix of old- and new-generation models in 2012 brought a 2.6-percent annual sales increase to 261,008. The midsize Edge turned in a respectable 127,969 deliveries for the year (+5 percent), but despite a 3-percent gain, the Flex wagon convinced just 28,224 buyers in all of 2012.

The franchise player F-Series line-up finished up by a significant 10 percent to 645,316 sales, after breaking even in December at 68,787 deliveries. Save the discontinued Ranger midsizer, all of Ford's other trucks finished the year in the black as well, leaving the unit up 2.4 percent compared with 2011.

At Lincoln, hope for a future-product-led turnaround will have to parry another year of disappointing sales in which the division could not overcome the retail-sales loss of the longstanding Town Car, despite gains for every other Lincoln nameplate. Lincoln's 2012 sales were led by the entry-level MKZ's 28,053 sales (+2 percent), closely followed by the MKX midsize crossover's annual tally of 25,107 (+7 percent).

With something of a lull in its new-product cadence, in 2013, Ford will count on growing momentum for the new-generation Fusion midsize sedan and C-Max wagon, while the redesigned Escape will have its hands full dealing with a veritable army of competitive compact crossovers in what is emerging as one of the industry's most important and challenging segments.

2012 Toyota Camry

Toyota: Toyota earned the title of comeback kid in 2012. The automaker came back from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in spade, and the Toyota Camry, revamped for 2012, was America's best-selling vehicle. For the year, Toyota, including its Lexus and Scion units, sold 2,082,504 vehicles in 2012, up 27 percent from 2011. Broken down by brand, Toyota sold 1,838,338 vehicles, up 27 percent from 2011; Lexus sold 244,166 units, up 23 percent; and Scion sold 73,505 vehicles, up 49 percent. Toyota brand stars were the Prius, which gained two new family members with the Prius C and Prius V, up 73 percent. Sales of the Camry, freshened for 2012, rose 31 percent to 404,886 units sold for its best year since 2008. Corolla sales climbed 21 percent to 290,947 vehicles. Scion sales were helped by the introduction of the new FR-S sports car, which kicked in 11,417 sales. Lexus gained on revamped high-volume models, the RX, up 16 percent, and the GS up a stunning 492 percent.

"With sales nearly doubling the increase of a healthy industry, Toyota had a breakout year in 2012," said Jim Lentz, president and chief executive officer, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. "Last year, we introduced 19 new or updated models, which accounted for about 40 percent of our sales. As we move into 2013 and the market sees continued growth, we expect to outperform the industry once again with another nine product launches on the horizon."

As for December, sales for all Toyota brands totaled 194,143 vehicles, up 9 percent from December 2011. Toyota brand sales rose 7 percent to 163,536 vehicles, with Corolla leading. The new Avalon hit the market in December and posted sales of 5,171 units, up 66 percent. Toyota utilities recorded hefty hikes as well. Lexus, which launched its annual "December to Remember" campaign in early November, had a 37 percent rise in December sales, with the new ES, including the hybrid version, posting a 70-percent climb.

2013 Chevrolet Sonic

Chrysler: With a few exceptions, 2012 was quite good to the Chrysler Group LLC: the company's sales for the year were up 21 percent to a total of 1,651,787, making it the best year for Chrysler since 2007. The same was true for December sales at Chrysler, up 10 percent to 152,367, marking the company's best December since 2007.

A particular highlight for the year was the performance of Chrysler's Jeep brand. Although Jeep's December sales were off 9 percent, the unit finished the year up 13 percent and its U.S. total of 474,131 sales helped propel Jeep to a new record for global sales, the company said in a release.

Chrysler also said seven individual models set sales records in 2012, while sales were up by double-digit amounts for each of the company's five brands. The Dodge unit emerged as Chrysler's top-volume brand, topping the half-million sales mark at 524,989 sales in 2012 for a 16-percent gain compared with 2011. Dodge got healthy performances from the Avenger midsize car (up 51 percent in 2012 to 96,890 units) and the Journey compact crossover, which gained 44 percent to 7,688 sales. Dodge enjoyed incremental sales of 25,303 units from the all-new Dodge Dart since its launch in June, although company officials likely would have preferred a stronger start for a car tilting in the hyper-competitive compact-car segment. The Caravan minivan was the brand's top-seller for 2012, moving 141,468 units - a 28-percent gain.

Back to Jeep, 2012 sales were led by the flagship Grand Cherokee, which found 154,734 buyers for the year, a substantial 21-percent improvement over 2011. The evergreen Wrangler was Jeep's next best-selling model for the year, pushing up sales 16 percent in 2012 to 141,669. Except for the Compass compact, every Jeep model improved sales in 2012.

Sales in 2012 for the Ram truck brand were up 17 percent to 300,928. With the midsize Dakota pickup fully phased-out, sales for the full-size Ram pickup swelled 20 percent for the year to a total of 293,363. The newly introduced Ram cargo van chipped in with 7,075 sales in a partial year of availability.

Ram was narrowly edged by the Chrysler brand's 307,967 sales for the year, which represented a 39-percent improvement over 2011. The Chrysler brand's limited lineup was led by the redesigned 200 midsize sedan, which was up 44 percent to 125,476 sales for the year. The soon-to-be-discontinued Town & Country minivan was up 18 percent to 111,744 sales for the year and the 300 full-size sedan found 70,747 buyers in 2012, a hefty 95-percent gain.

For the company's Fiat unit, 2011 sales ballooned 121 percent, the brand's sales total of 43,772 units being comprised totally of Fiat's sole U.S. model, the 500 subcompact.

Looking ahead to 2013, Chrysler seeks to continue two years of post-recession momentum with large plays for the Jeep, Fiat and Ram brands. At Jeep, an all-new replacement for the long-in-the-tooth Liberty is in the wings. Fiat will expand the 500 lineup with a larger 4-door model and an all-electric variant. And Ram will introduce a new range of Fiat-derived vans in an effort to bring a long-overdue transformation of the U.S.'s large and profitable commercial-van market from old-school, truck-based models to more efficient and maneuverable unibody-type architectures - a transformation in which several of Chrysler's competitors also seek to participate.

2013 Chevrolet Sonic

Honda: American Honda finished 2012 with total sales of 1,422,785, an increase of 24 percent compared with full-year 2011 sales. The year was capped by a December that saw U.S. sales for Honda (and its Acura upscale division) at 132,774, an increase of 26.2 percent compared with December, 2011. The Acura unit finished 2012 at 156,216 sales, 26.7 percent better than 2011.

Propelled by an all-new Accord midsize sedan and revitalized demand for the Civic compact car, Honda fell slightly short of its all-time December sales record, but the Accord's annual sales mushroomed 41 percent to 331,872 units and the Civic found 317,909 buyers in 2012, a 44-percent gain. The two cars' nearly 650,000-unit combined sales were more than the total 2012 sales for any non-Big Six automaker other than Hyundai and Kia.

On the downside, several Honda cars ended 2012 with downbeat outlooks. The Fit subcompact, showing considerable lack of competitiveness, was off 16.7 percent for the year and did not break the 50,000-unit sales barrier, moving 49,346 units. The Insight hybrid drooped to just 5,846 sales for the year, a 62-percent slide and the CR-Z hybrid coupe found 4,192 takers in 2012, a 63-percent decline.

Meanwhile, Honda's CR-V compact crossover set an all-time sales record at 281,652 sales and every Honda utility vehicle save the Pilot crossover was up by double-digits for the year. Honda's Odyssey finished strong to become the brand's best-selling utility vehicle after the CR-V, finding 125,980 buyers in 2012, an 18-percent improvement.

At the Acura premium-vehicle division, burgeoning sales for the brand's crossovers carried the day - or more accurately, the year. With only partial-year sales, the redesigned RDX compact crossover, with 29,520 sales, was 94 percent better than the nameplate's 2011 total. The midsize MDX crossover finished 2012 with 50,584 sales, 17.5 percent better than last year, although the ZDX wagon continued its swoon, managing just 775 sales for the entire year.

Despite a faltering December, most of Acura's passenger cars pulled to full-year gains, with Acura's volume-leading car, the TL, up 7.5 percent to 33,572 sales for the year. The entry-level TSX was off almost 7 percent, however, at 28,865 sales in 2012.

2013 Chevrolet Sonic

Nissan: Nissan hit new milestones in 2012. Nissan North America, including the Nissan and Infiniti brands, reported record sales of 1,141,656 vehicles, up 10 percent from 2011. The Nissan brand set a new record with sales of 1,021, 779 units, up 8 percent from a year ago and surpassing the 1 million-unit sales mark for the first time ever. The brand was led by the Nissan Altima, with the revamped 2013 model introduced in June, surpassed the 300,000-unit sales mark for the first time ever - 302,934 sales. Other record setters were: Nissan Rogue crossover, up 14 percent to 142,349 units; Nissan Versa, up 14 percent to 113,327 sold, which also included a new December record of 10,618 units sold; the all-electric Leaf had sales up 1 percent to 9,819 units; and the NV commercial van had sales up 58 percent to 10,179 units with December being its best month ever. "Nissan had a record-breaking 2012, led by strong totals for Altima, Rogue and Versa," said Al Castignetti, vice president, Nissan Division. "Our aggressive product launch schedule with five new core vehicles in under two years positions us well for a successful 2013."

For 2012, Infiniti sales rose 22 percent. "2012 was a strong year for Infiniti, as we added the Infiniti JX luxury crossover, and the Infiniti G sports sedan and QX full-size luxury SUV continued to be solid players in their segments," said Ben Poore, vice president, Infiniti Americas. "The JX brought new buyers into our showroom, and we expect that will continue throughout 2013, as we add another important new vehicle to the Infiniti line."

December sales, however, were down. Nissan North America sold 99,290 vehicles, down 2 percent from a year ago. NNissan Division sales for December were off 4 percent at 86,663 units. Infiniti had its best December since 2006.

Hyundai: Hyundai Motor America rode a record breaking December (sales up 17 percent to 59,435) to surpass the 700,000-unit mark for full-year 2012, finishing the year with 703,007 sales, a 9-percent improvement over 2011. The sparkling total speaks volumes about Hyundai's expansive growth and connection with U.S. customers, as it wasn't until 2010 that the brand's U.S. sales surpassed the half-million milestone. In the past ten years, Hyundai has nearly doubled its 2002 sales total of 375,119.

Hyundai's two top-selling mainstream sedans, the compact Elantra and midsize Sonata, both rolled in record numbers in 2012: the Elantra was up 8 percent to 202,034 sales and Sonata sales eased up 2 percent to end at 230,605 for the year.

Also posting solid increases for 2012 were the redesigned Accent subcompact, up 10 percent to 61,004 and the Veloster coupe, which rocketed 276 percent to 34,862 sales compared to its launch year in 2011. The redesigned Azera full-size sedan posted a rollicking 453-percent hike to 8,431 sales in a partial year of availability.

Hyundai also enjoyed small full-year gains from the Tucson compact crossover and Genesis sedan/coupe line, as well as a near 25-percent jump for the Equus flagship, to 3,972 sales. These were balanced by modest declines for the Santa Fe and Veracruz crossovers.

With a largely new lineup, Hyundai moves into 2013 needing to explore and exploit market segments and even market niches where it currently has no presence. Rumors continue to speculate regarding Hyundai's potential for a compact or midsize pickup - one perhaps utilizing a unitized car architecture - although company sources continue to downplay any interest. And although the brand launched an estimable large, near-luxury car in the all-new Azera, it has yet to test similar ground in the crossover market.

Kia: Kia Motors America burst to another record U.S. sales performance 2012, totaling 557,599 sales for the year, blowing past 2011's record mark by nearly 15 percent. This despite the fact December was one of Kia's worst months in recent memory, with sales off 10 percent to 39,178.

Kia rode to another record year with monstrous increases from its Optima midsize sedan - up 80 percent to 152,399 to become Kia's first model ever to surpass 150,000 units in annual sales - and Rio subcompact, which doubled its 2011 sales total to finish at 40,275 deliveries. The Soul compact hatchback also added 13 percent to its 2011 sales total to finish this year at 115,778 sales.

Proving the value of a surging model in a high-volume segment, gains from the Optima more than offset full-year declines for several other Kia models, including a modest drop for the Forte compact car, a 24-percent slide for the Sportage compact crossover and even a nearly 10-percent decline for the popular Sorento midsize crossover.

Volkswagen: In 2012, Volkswagen enjoyed its best calendar year for sales since 1973, delivering twice the number of vehicles it sold in recession-ridden 2009. The German automaker sold 438,133 vehicles in 2012, up 35 percent from 2011 and well above the industry rise. The company ended the year on an even higher note, selling 44,005 vehicles in December, and a 35-percent increase for its best December since 1970.

Jonathan Browning, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, said 2012 marked a significant step in the company's long-term growth plan for the U.S., which has the automaker selling 800,000 vehicles in 2018. However, he noted that the percentage increases likely will slow in the future.

Volkswagen's strength is coming largely from across its product line but notable standouts are the U.S.-built Passat, which had sales of 117,023 vehicles in 2012, its best year ever and a 414-percent increase from 2011. In December alone, Volkswagen sold 14,462 Passat models. Jetta is Volkswagen's runner-up in volume, with sales of 146,478 for the year and 13,102 in December. The latest edition of the Beetle hit 3,182 units sold in December, putting its 2012 total at 29,174 units. Golf sales were up 16 percent in 2012, Tiguan up 22 percent and Touareg up 40 percent. Diesel models accounted for 20.6 percent of 2012 sales and 16.7 percent of December sales.

Subaru: Subaru of America marched on to yet-another record in 2012 and the December of 2012. For the year, Subaru sold 336,441 vehicles, a 25-percent increase from 2011 for the fourth consecutive year of record sales and the fifth consecutive year of sales increases, a feat only Subaru has achieved. The Japanese automaker had its best sales month in history in December, selling 36,653 vehicles, up 9 percent from December 2011.

In 2012, Subaru's surge was led by the revamped Impreza, of which it sold 68,175 in 2012, up 149 percent from 2011. The pace slowed in December with a sales hike of 7 percent to 5,863 units. The automaker's volume leader, the Outback, achieved sales of 117,553 units, up 13 percent for the year but dipped 10 percent in December to 12,072 units. Forester sales were flat at 76,347 units in 2012 and up 2 percent in December to 8,764 units. Legacy sales rose 11 percent for the year to 47,127 units; they were down 9 percent in December to 4,217 units. The newly introduced BRZ sports car and XV Crosstrek models also added 3,906 incremental sales for the month of December and 11,540 units for the year.

"We met our goals for the year and we crossed a new milestone by exceeding 300,000 annual sales," said Thomas J. Doll, executive vice president and COO, Subaru of America, Inc. "It was a great year for Subaru of America. The popular XV Crosstrek, all-new 2014 Forester and an upcoming hybrid will fuel our growth in this new year."

Mazda: Mazda North American Operations (MNAO) experienced its best calendar year sales since 2007 last year and its best December since 1994. In 2012, Mazda sold 277,046 vehicles, up 11 percent. In December, Mazda sold 27,251 vehicles, up 22 percent.

Mazda3 had its best annual sales in 2012 with 123,361 vehicles sold and its best December with sales of 10,297 vehicles. Of the Mazda3 vehicles sold, 69.3 percent were equipped with Mazda's fuel-efficient Skyactive technology in 2012; the percentage rose to 77 percent in December. For the year, 46.5 percent of all Mazda vehicles sold were equipped with Skyactive; for December, the percentage was 51 percent. Mazda2 sales rose 121 percent in 2012 and up 38 percent for December. Mazda5 sales soared 140 percent in 2012 and down 24 percent in December. The CX-5 had its best sales month ever in December and is now Mazda's second best seller. Mazda launched the refreshed 2013 CX-9 in early December, when its sales were the highest for the year.

BMW: With a 39-percent sales increase for the month of December, the BMW Group in the U.S. poured it on and pulled away to rather convincingly become the U.S. luxury-vehicle sales leader for 2012 — and in the process also set an all-time record for U.S. sales with 347,583. BMW's 2012 total included sales for its Mini small-car brand, which also set a new record for annual U.S. sales at 66,123 units.

BMW benefitted from a solid year for its highest-volume models, the 3- and 5-Series cars and X3 and X5 crossovers. The 3-Series, BMW's best-seller in the U.S., improved sales in 2012 by 5.5 percent and nearly broke into six-figure territory by finishing the year with 99,602 deliveries. The 5-Series line followed with 56,798 sales, a 10-percent gain. The X1 car-crossover, newly introduced in 2012, chipped in with 8,947 incremental sales for the year, its sales for some reason grouped with BMW's car lineup.

The company's crossover sales got a big boost from the new-generation X3, which boosted sales by 26.6 percent in 2012 to 35,173, but the X3 was outdone by the larger X5's 44,445 deliveries, which amounted to a 9.6-percent improvement compared with 2011. The X6 improved by 9 percent for the year to 6,749 sales.

For the year, BMW had few losers, although notably, the 1-Series entry-level car dropped by 13 percent to just 7,689 sales and the Z4 roadster fell to a meager 2,751 deliveries for the year, a 20.9-percent slide. And the 7-Series flagship was off a modest 2 percent to 11,098 sales.

At the Mini small-car showroom, volume from the new Roadster (2,371 for the year) and recently introduced Coupe — up 202 percent to 2,880 sales for the year — as well as a strong showing from the Countryman (up 26 percent to 21,012 deliveries) helped to offset modest declines for the mainstream Clubman and Convertible models. The standard Cooper hardtop lineup gained just over 4 percent for the year to finish with 29,278 sales.

Mercedes-Benz: Despite a best-ever year in the U.S. of 305,072 vehicles sold, Mercedes-Benz USA wasn't able to surpass chief rival BMW to become the nation's No. 1 luxury-vehicle brand, as BMW rode a monstrous December sales jump to finish the year with 347,967 sales (Mercedes-Benz sales for 2012 included its smart small-car brand and Sprinter van unit, while BMW's total included sales from its Mini small-vehicle unit).

Mercedes-Benz's 15-percent jump for 2012 was capped by December sales that increased 12 percent to 31,372 units. In December and for the year, Mercedes' best-selling model was the C-Class lineup, which finished the year up a healthy 18 percent to 81,697 sales. The brand's second-best seller, the E-Class midsizer, was up a more modest 3.9 percent for the year, finishing with 65,171 deliveries. The GLK compact crossover enjoyed a healthy 21-percent gain to 29,363 sales for the year and the SLK roadster mounted a 43-percent comeback, finding 4,595 buyers in 2012. And in terms of annual percentage gain, the SL roadster was the brand's best performer, improving sales by 238 percent to 4,899 sales in 2012.

Decliners for Mercedes in 2012 included the S-Class flagship sedan, off 3.8 percent to 11,794 sales, the R-Class wagon, which fell 38 percent to just 1,473 deliveries and the CL-Class, which slid to 723 sales, a 23-percent drop.

The smart brand improved 2012 sales by 92 percent, moving 10,009 of its single 2-seater offering, while the Sprinter unit sold 20,929 vans for a 26-percent improvement compared with 2011 sales.

Audi: Audi of America Inc. enjoyed the best December and its best-ever sales year in the U.S. in 2012, with 139,310 sales for the year (up 18.5 percent), while December's total of 14,481 sales was 17 percent better than 2011. Except for its two sports cars, the TT and R8, each of Audi's eight other model lines posted sales gains compared with 2011.

The A4 line was Audi's best-seller in 2012, with sales for the year of 38,530 marking a 9-percent gain. The brand's second highest-volume model was the Q5 compact crossover, which found 28,671 buyers in 2012, a 15-percent improvement. Audi's largest-percentage gainer in 2012 was the A6 midsize sedan, which posted a 71-percent jump on 18,998 sales.

Audi will be challenged in 2013 to continue the sharp sales increases it's posted in the post-recession U.S. market, particularly as the luxury market becomes more fragmented and competition intensifies from mainstream brands that can affordably offer many of the same electronic technologies that once were the province of the luxury market. As consumers continue to indicate preference for crossover-type body styles, Audi may need to expand beyond its current 2-model lineup of "traditional" crossovers — although the newly introduced A4 Allroad may indicate the brand will further explore the blurry divide between crossovers and more conventional wagon body styles.

Volvo: Volvo Cars of North America reported sales up a scant 1 percent in 2012 to 68,117 units. December proved better with 6,150 vehicles sold for a 15-percent increase gave Volvo its best December since 2007. The S60 was Volvo's volume leader with 23,356 sold, up 10 percent from a year earlier. Its December sales rose 20 percent to 2,344 units. The XC60 had a 48-percent sales increase for the year to 19,139 units; December sales soared 56 percent to 1,760 units. The rest of Volvo's line posted declines.

Mitsubishi: Mitsubishi Motors North America had 2012 sales of 57,790 vehicles, down 21 percent from 2011. In December, Mitsubishi sold 4,113 vehicles, down 18 percent. The Outlander Sport had sales up 20 percent for the year at 18,091 units; it had its second best month ever in December with sales up 15 percent to 1,770 units. Lancer Evolution sales rose 19 percent for the year to 2,516 units; they were up 39 percent in December at 259 units. The electric Mitsubishi i added 588 sales for the year and 77 for December. The rest of Mitsubishi's line posted declines.

Jaguar Land Rover: Jaguar Land Rover North America reported 2012 sales of 55,675 vehicles, up 11 percent from 2011. Land Rover, led by the Evoque, Range Rover and Range Rover sport, sold 43,664 SUVs, up 15 percent for the year; Jaguar sales dropped 2 percent to 12,011 units. For December, the British brands sold 6,223 vehicles, up 6 percent. Land Rover sold 5,174 SUVs in December, up 9 percent. Jaguar sold 1,049 vehicles, down 8 percent.

Porsche: Porsche Cars North America achieved an all-time record for U.S. sales in 2012, selling 35,043 vehicles, up 21 percent from 2011. The previous record was in pre-recession 2007 when Porsche sold 34,693 vehicles. Strong demand for the new 911 Carrera, Carrera S Coupe and Cabriolet, which went on sale in 2012, fueled the surge. The Cayenne SUV also had a good year. December sales 2,952 vehicles, up 61 percent from December 2011.

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