(Jonathan Alcorn / Bloomberg )
With the presidential election and Hurricane Sandy behind them, car shoppers headed for dealer lots last month in what looked to be the biggest numbers since early 2008.
Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Nissan, Hyundai and Volkswagen on Monday all reported rising November auto sales.
Analysts estimated that automakers sold more than 1.1 million vehicles last month for a seasonally adjusted annual rate of about 15 million.
It appeared to be the highest annual sales rate since February 2008, said Jesse Toprak, an analyst for auto information company TrueCar.com.
Toprak said import brands increased their spending on incentives and discounts last month and probably outpaced the domestic nameplates.
So far, the increasingly rancorous federal budget negotiations don’t seem to be hurting sales.
“We don’t expect any major impact on auto sales from the ongoing fiscal cliff discussions,” Toprak said.
Still, automakers are worried about the budget talks.
Kurt McNeil, vice president of U.S. sales operations at General Motors Co., said auto sales this year are on track to reach the higher end of the automaker's forecast but, “exactly how much growth we can expect next year will depend in part on how Congress and the president resolve the fiscal cliff issue."
"Consumers hate uncertainty, so an agreement on ways to reduce long-term federal budget deficits could remove an impediment to growth,” he said.
GM reported its highest November U.S. sales volume since 2007, with deliveries up 3% compared with the same month a year ago to 186,505 vehicles.
Ford Motor Co. said its sales rose 6.5% to 177,673 vehicles last month.
Chrysler Group said its sales rose 14% to 122,565 units, it’s best November sales since 2007.
Nissan North America said its U.S. sales rose 13% in November to 96,197 vehicles.
Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. said its sales rose 17% to 161,695 vehicles.
Hyundai Motor America said its sales rose 8% to 53,487 vehicles for its best November since introducing the brand in the U.S. more than 25 years ago.
“We were also very encouraged by the strong sales recovery experienced in those northeastern regions that were ravaged by Super Storm Sandy and expect continued momentum there for the balance of the year,” said Dave Zuchowski, Hyundai’s executive vice president of sales.
Volkswagen Group said sales of its VW brand rose 29% to 36,728 vehicles. It was VW's best November since 1973.
“The fact that November sales have bounced back from a sluggish October suggests that those who lost cars or who deferred purchases after Hurricane Sandy are already getting back on the road,” said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with auto information company Edmunds.com.
Edmunds.com estimates that as many as 250,000 vehicles were damaged or destroyed by Sandy and that will generate new car and truck sales of 65,000 to 80,000.
Those buyers are the likely reason that auto information company Kelley Blue Book saw sales building during the last days of November.
That is setting up the market for what could be a very strong December, said Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst for Kelley Blue Book.
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