General Motors Co.'s U.S. sales rose 11 per cent overall in November, slightly less than gains projected for the industry amid a slow but steady return in consumer demand from the depressed levels of a year ago.
Sales of GM's four core U.S. brands rose 21 per cent in November from a year earlier amid higher prices and reduced incentives, GM said in its first sales results since it completed the largest-ever IPO in November.
Ford Motor Co. said its U.S. sales rose 24 per cent in November from a year earlier amid more signs of growth in the U.S. economy and demand for new vehicles. Ford sales exclude the Volvo car unit it sold to China's Geely in August.
Ford left its fourth-quarter production plan intact and announced that first-quarter 2011 production would be up 11 per cent from the first three months of 2010.
Chrysler Group LLC sales rose 17 per cent.
GM said growing pent-up demand for cars will be released as the economy continues to improve.
"We see people showing an increasing willingness to go out into dealerships and into malls," said Jim Bunnell, general manager of GM's U.S. sales operations. "It's not going to happen overnight, but we think through 2011 we're going to see a continued gradual improvement."
GM said it expected the seasonally adjusted annualized rate of sales to be about 12.2 million vehicles in November, in line with the 12.2 million rate in October. GM expects U.S. auto sales to be up 15 per cent overall.
An annualized rate about equal to October would be encouraging for the traditionally slow month, analysts said.
GM said its core Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac brands were on track to gain market share for the year. Sales of GM's Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave sister crossovers rose a combined 38 per cent from a year earlier.
GM said sales of its new Chevy Cruze helped punch car sales up 17 per cent in November from a year earlier.
GM said its average transaction prices were up $1,300 in November from a year earlier, while incentives were down. Industry-wide incentives were up slightly in November from a year earlier.
The F-Series pickup truck continued to lead Ford sales over all and the Fusion sedan has already set an annual sales record with one month left in the year, Ford said. Sales of the Ford Edge crossover rose 55 per cent.
Auto sales for November are one of the first snapshots of consumer behaviour at the holiday shopping season. However, auto makers typically run year-end discount programs from before the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday through year end.
Hyundai Motor Co. and Ford are expected to have the biggest sales gains in November, continuing a trend that has seen the two auto makers take share from rivals in 2010.
The final weekend of November sales was lifted by Thanksgiving holiday deals sponsored by individual dealers and manufacturers, including Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co., analysts said.
Analysts expect Toyota to report a 2 per cent sales drop in November despite increased spending on incentives, making it the only major auto maker with a decline and illustrating the difficulties Toyota still faces in winning back U.S. consumers a year after starting recalls that rocked its reputation for quality and safety.
Toyota said on Monday it would fix about 378,000 Prius models in the United States because of a risk that a coolant pump could malfunction and cause the car to overheat and lose power.
Since last November, Toyota has recalled about 14 million vehicles worldwide, including 11 million in the United States.
After a disastrous 2009 that saw GM and Chrysler collapse into government-funded bankruptcies, the industry is expected to see 2010 sales of about 11.5 million vehicles. That would represent a gain of about 10 per cent.
Most industry estimates for 2011 put sales between 12 million and 13 million vehicles. Before the financial crisis, auto makers routinely sold more than 16 million vehicles per year in the U.S. market.