Automakers See Major Boost in 2011

Joel Anderson  |

The year 2011 was a pretty good one for Detroit, or at least as good as one could expect these days. The Detroit Tigers made the playoffs and beat the New York Yankees and the Detroit Lions made the postseason for the first time in a decade. However, for many these accomplishments may be trivial when compared to the news that American carmakers showed double digit sales gains in 2011.

Big Three Up Big in December

Last year was already going well for the big three prior to December. General Motors (GM), only two years removed from government-backed bankruptcy, managed to reclaim the top spot for world auto sales from Toyota (TM), while Ford (F) and Chrysler also showed strong gains. “The year finished on a high note, with industry sales momentum strengthening as the year came to a close,” said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service. “We saw Ford sales strengthen as well, posting our best December retail sales month since 2005 and closing the year as America’s best-selling brand.”

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But December proved to exceed expectations across the board. General Motors saw December vehicle sales jump 4.5 percent, beating analyst expectations of 4.4 percent, while Ford's sales were up 10 percent, beating expectations of 7.7 percent, and Chrysler outpace both with a 37 percent increase, beating average expectations of 33 percent. Chrysler ultimately boasted an 83 percent jump in year-over-year December sales.

“Chrysler Group finished a year of growth on a strong note with our December retail sales soaring 45% to our highest dealer retail sales in four years,” Reid Bigland, Chrysler Group US Sales chief, said.  “Looking back, we were the fastest-growing automaker in the country, increasing our market share 1.3%age points during 2011,” he said.

Big Three Have Best Year Since 2008

On the whole, 2011 saw serious advances for American automakers. For the year, Chrysler reported an increase in sales of some 26 percent, with GM and Ford reporting annual gains of 13 percent and 11 percent respectively for an overall increase in sales of new cars and trucks of over 10 percent. All this comes amid more promising economic news for the country at the end of 2011, with the economy expanding at an annual rate of 2.8 percent for the final three months of 2011.

"December sales are so far proving that 2012 will be another strong year for the industry, Alec Gutierrez, senior market analyst at Kelley Blue Book, said. "Healthy automobile sales are positive signs in terms of consumer spending which is quite important for the economy as a whole."

Ford posted a modest gain, rising almost 3 percent for the day, while GM only moved marginally, gaining about a half percent.

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