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Ford and Toyota gain, Hyundai soars as industry sees strength

Tue, 01 Dec 2009 00:00:00 -0800

Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. posted slight U.S. sales gains in November and Hyundai-Kia soared as the industry reported sales in line with its “new normal,” after a four-year decline and this summer's cash-for-clunkers incentive.

Ford's sales climbed less than 1 percent, the automaker's fourth gain in five months. Toyota's 3 percent advance marked the automaker's third increase in four months.

Hyundai-Kia climbed 34 percent as sales of the Hyundai Accent and Elantra nearly doubled. American Honda sales fell 3 percent, and General Motors Co.'s dropped 2 percent.

With all but three automakers reporting as of 3 p.m. Eastern time, industry sales totals were about flat with last November's depressed numbers. Chrysler today pegged the month's seasonally adjusted annual sales rate at 11 million in posting a 25 percent sales decline.

In surveys of analysts before the results were released, Automotive News, Bloomberg News and Reuters put the sales rate at 10.5 million units.

October's 11.2 million SAAR reflected the first month this year in which seasonally adjusted demand passed 10 million units, not including the July and August boosts from the federal government's cash-for-clunkers program.

U.S. light-vehicle sales averaged 16.4 million units annually this decade through last year. In an accelerated decline, sales fell to 13.2 million units last year, reaching quarter-century lows by November 2008. That means today's comparisons are being measured against the worst November in decades.

Low sales this year stifled first-half production, but automakers today signaled a thaw next year.

Production boost

Ford said it would build 550,000 vehicles in North America during the first quarter of 2010, a 58 percent increase from the depressed first three months of this year. GM forecast production of 650,000 vehicles in the first quarter, a 75 percent increase.

Despite stabilizing sales, Subaru and Hyundai-Kia were the only automakers posting year-to-date advances through October.

"While we have continued to deliver substantial year-over-year sales gains and sustained market share growth, we were, quite frankly, hoping that the economy and overall industry would have bounced back a bit more than we are seeing right now," Dave Zuchowski, Hyundai's vice president of sales, said in a statement.

Subaru's sales swelled 24 percent for its sixth straight increase. The Japanese brand already has outsold its total for all of last year.

Today Subaru predicted it would set a U.S. sales record this year, beating the 200,703 vehicles sold of 2006. In November Subaru benefited from its Legacy sedan, whose sales soared 83 percent, and Outback wagon, which shot up 142 percent.

Daimler AG's sales increased 9 percent despite being dragged down by a 66 percent plunge in sales of its Smart minicar brand. BMW Group slid 8 percent, partly because of a 44 percent tumble in sales of its Mini brand.

“November was a peculiar month as we saw fewer consumers shopping for small, fuel-efficient vehicles,” said Mini USA Vice President Jim McDowell.

John Mendel, American Honda's executive vice president of sales, also noted a shift, pointing to increased consumer interest in light trucks.




By Chrissie Thompson- Automotive News