Robots weld part of a Chrysler SUV at the Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit, Michigan.
CHICAGO: US auto sales roared ahead in 2012, with Chrysler once again outpacing its American rivals with double-digit gains as General Motors and Ford posted modest growth yesterday.
All three posted strong sales last month, with Ford registering its best December in six years, and GM and Chrysler scoring their best December in five years.
For the year GM sold nearly 2.6 million vehicles in total, a gain of 3.7 percent from 2011. Ford, the number-two US automaker, said its 2012 sales rose five percent from 2011 to nearly 2.3 million vehicles.
But Chrysler topped both in terms of sheer growth, delivering nearly 1.7 million vehicles for a 21 percent gain.
Chrysler estimated that its US market share had grown to 11.2 percent in 2012 from 10.5 percent in 2011, which ought to place it squarely in fourth place behind General Motors, Ford and Toyota.
“Looking back on 2012, we were again one of the fastest-growing automakers in the country,” Chrysler sales chief Reid Bigland said. “We also recorded 33 consecutive months of year-over-year sales growth and our strongest annual sales in five years.”
Top Japanese rival Toyota also turned in a strong performance, its 26.6 percent growth to 2.1 million units still reflecting a rebound from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster that crippled Japanese industry.
The auto industry’s gains came despite the US economy continuing to grow at a sluggish pace and consumer worries that mounted late in the year about the potential sharp tax increases of the fiscal cliff that had been slated to take place from January 1.
In the end, battling political leaders reached a last-minute compromise that resulted in only modest tax hikes. GM vice president of US sales operations Kurt McNeil said in a statement that industry sales should rise again this year with the cliff threat averted.
“GM’s strong finish in 2012, the industry’s momentum and the overall health of the US economy make us optimistic about 2013,” McNeil said. “The budget compromise reached in Washington this week removes uncertainty and clears the way for full-year light vehicle sales to rise to the 15 million to 15.5 million unit range in 2013.”
“Ford finished 2012 strong, with retail sales showing improved strength as more customers returned to dealer showrooms,” echoed Ken Czubay, head of Ford sales.
“Ford’s fuel-efficient cars and hybrid vehicles showed the most dramatic growth for the year, and we achieved our best year for commercial vehicle sales since 2008.”
Ford’s domination of the truck market helped boost sales as its popular F-Series pickup marked 31 consecutive years as America’s best-selling vehicle with 645,316 units sold, a 10 percent gain from 2011.
Volkswagen — which sees strong growth in the US market as key to its attempt at gaining the global sales crown — also celebrated strong gains. The German automaker’s sales jumped 35 percent to just over 438,000 vehicles in 2012 after it posted its best December since 1970 with sales up 35 percent.
“The Volkswagen brand delivered another important step in our long-term growth plan,” said Jonathan Browning, chief of Volkswagen Group of America.
Volkswagen has more than doubled its 2009 volume after three consecutive years of double-digit growth, he noted. “With the addition of the all-new Jetta Turbo Hybrid, Beetle Convertible and our strong dealer network, we expect to continue to outpace the industry in 2013,” Browning said.