Chrysler Reports Best Sales Year Since Before the Great Recession

Tops sales of carsBy TOM KRISHER

DETROIT -- Chrysler's U.S. sales jumped 21 percent last year, the carmaker's strongest performance since 2007.

The company's impressive increase outpaced the U.S. auto industry, which is expected to post a 13 percent gain for 2012. Chrysler's sales were a strong sign that Americans felt more confident about the economy as they replaced aging cars and trucks last year.

"The U.S. light vehicle sales market continues to be a bright spot in the tremulous global environment," said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting for LMC Automotive, a Detroit-area industry forecasting firm.

For December, Chrysler's (FIATY) sales rose 10 percent to 152,367 cars and trucks, led by the Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV, Ram pickup and Chrysler 300 luxury car. Chrysler, the first automaker to report sales on Thursday, said industry sales jumped to an annual rate of 15.8 million in December, making it the strongest month of the year.

The robust sales came even with uncertainty about the so-called fiscal cliff -- the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that would have slowed the U.S. economy.

Sales of new cars and trucks for the year should total around 14.5 million. That is almost 40 percent higher than 2009, when the economy tanked and sales hit their lowest level in nearly three decades.

Last year, U.S. unemployment eased, the housing industry started to recover and people felt a bit more confident in the economy. Interest rates also stayed low and banks made loans available to more customers, even those with poor credit. People began to replace the aging cars and trucks that they'd owned since before the recession. The average age of a vehicle in the U.S. grew to a record 11.2 years.

In 2012, sales of Japanese brand cars rebounded in the U.S. Customers could choose from more Honda (HMC) and Toyota (TM) models because the companies recovered from a 2011 earthquake and had enough vehicles stocked at dealerships for nearly the whole year.

Honda was expected to lead all manufacturers in December with a 32 percent rise in sales from a year earlier. Volkswagen (VLKAY) also was expected to post big numbers, up 29 percent, according to the auto pricing website. General Motors' (GM) sales were forecast to rise just 1 percent, lagging industry growth as they have for most of the year.

December featured year-end deals on big pickup trucks; GM offered discounts of up to $9,000 to help clear growing inventory.

Overall, though, analysts said the industry eased up on promotions such as rebates and low-interest financing. Car and truck buyers paid an average of $31,228 per vehicle last month, up 1.8 percent from December 2011.

The Polk auto research firm predicted even stronger U.S. sales for 2013, forecasting 15.3 million as the economy continues to improve. Polk, based in Southfield, Mich., expects 43 new models to be introduced, up 50 percent from last year. New models usually boost sales.

The firm also predicts a rebound in sales of large pickups and midsize cars. All eight of the top manufacturers are strong and introducing new vehicles, and that should bring competition and lower prices in those segments, according to Tom Libby, lead North American analyst for Polk.

But the firm's optimistic forecasts hinge on Washington reaching agreements on the government's debt limit and spending cuts.

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Just got a new Jeep Grand Cherokee - it is absolutely SUPER!!!!

January 04 2013 at 1:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

that's because their cars are made by pot heads.......(on their lunch break)

January 03 2013 at 10:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Good and all the Goobers who are moaning here work for the foreign auto makers who only build their USA plants in Gooberville USA for the cheap labor .............................

January 03 2013 at 10:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Without Ford, GM, and Chrysler the USA would not be the same. By saving the American auto industry, Obama and friends saved the USA.

January 03 2013 at 9:45 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

We got arrested for driving a new drunk Dart.It came from the factory that way.

January 03 2013 at 8:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Cars are so rediculously over priced right now it's not even funny! Just a regular F-150 they're asking 24,000 dollars and they don't even have electric windows! That's 1/3rd the price of my house I bought in 1997. Chevy Silverados are overpriced as well. They need to bring prices down to around 15,000 for basic truck.

January 03 2013 at 7:18 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

More proof Romney was right LOLOLOL

January 03 2013 at 6:59 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Mopar or no car! Only if it is a sixties Mopar. Cuda, Challanger, Dart, Valiant, Charger, Roadrunner, GTX and so on!

January 03 2013 at 6:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Too bad Odumma gave it to the Italians

January 03 2013 at 6:23 PM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to usacars's comment

Yes too bad the Italians saved the company created thousands of jobs instead of the Romney approach of empty rusting assembly lines. I can why your upset a black man did this not a white guy. As there's is no others reason to be upset about people working for a a living feeding families paying house payments and sending kids off to collage.

January 03 2013 at 7:02 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to calderasf's comment

If GM had been divided up, they could have sold money making divisions to someone who can compete and GMs liability divisions could go under. Now we have the same old crippled General Motors under the same management team that again depends on overpriced gas guzzling trucks to make money. Unsustainable.

January 03 2013 at 8:30 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down

What a shame the automobile industry took a while to come back which allowed Fiat to by a large portion of Chrysler. I hope they don't make any of the good looking Chrysler products look like their ugly little cars.

January 03 2013 at 6:12 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to falcon38a's comment

It's the ugly little cars that people are buying not the giant dangerous rollover polluting SUVS pig trucks.

January 03 2013 at 7:04 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to calderasf's comment

I would buy a "pig truck" for my business but they don't have any that are affordable. 24,000 for a truck without power windows?? Really? That's crazy.

January 03 2013 at 7:20 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down