UPDATE 5-US Nov auto sales rise, recovery gains ground

* US auto industry sales better than analysts expected

* GM Nov US core sales up 21 pct, Ford up 24 pct

* Toyota sales fall 3 pct, only major to post decline

* Honda sales up 21 pct, Chrysler up 17 pct

* Hyundai up 45 pct, Nissan up 27 pct
(Revises first paragraph, adds analyst’s comments, Honda
results, overall sales figures, closing stock prices)

By David Bailey

DETROIT, Dec 1 (BestGrowthStock) – U.S. auto sales rose 17 percent
in November from a year earlier, a stronger-than-expected gain
that pointed to a slow but steady return in consumer demand
from the depressed levels of a year ago.

The annual sales rate was near 12.3 million vehicles in
November — flat with October — as American consumers were
lured into showrooms by month-end discounts for new car
purchases that many had delayed through the recession.

Ford Motor Co (F.N: ) reported a 24 percent increase in
sales. Chrysler sales rose 17 percent and General Motors Co
(GM.N: ) sales were up 11 percent overall. Ford sales exclude the
Volvo car unit it sold to China’s Geely in August.

“We are seeing consumers coming back in the marketplace not
just because they need a car but because they want one, which
is a significant change from the buying patterns we have seen
in the last nearly two years,” TrueCar analyst Jesse Toprak
said.

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Reuters Insider story on GM sales zooming:

http://link.reuters.com/gyw77q

Graphic: U.S. light vehicle sales in November

http://r.reuters.com/bur97q

Table on U.S. auto sales [ID:nN01158404]

Top 20 selling vehicles in US through Nov [ID:nN01159910]

Japan, Europe November car sales fall [ID:nLDE6B00RN]

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Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T: ) sales dropped 3 percent in
November, slightly deeper than the 2 percent drop analysts
expected, 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, the world’s top automaker, said it cut back on
sales to fleets including car rental agencies by 60 percent in
November from a year earlier, while its sales to consumers rose
about 5 percent.

Toyota has recalled about 14 million vehicles worldwide
since last November, including 11 million in the United States.
On Monday, Toyota said it would replace potentially defective
coolant pumps on 378,000 U.S. Prius hybrids. [ID:nN29226676]

“Without new product to compete with and stripped of its
bullet-proof quality reputation, Toyota is forced to sell on
the deal,” Edmunds.com senior analyst Jessica Caldwell said.

GM said it expected that the growing pent-up demand for
cars — evidenced by rising used-car prices and the increasing
age of cars on the road — would bolster sales as consumer
demand recovers in 2011.

“It’s not going to happen overnight, but we think through
2011 we’re going to see a continued gradual improvement,” said
Jim Bunnell, general manager of GM’s U.S. sales operations.

Auto sales for November are one of the first snapshots of
consumer behavior at the holiday shopping season. However,
automakers typically run year-end discount programs from before
the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday through year end.

Thanksgiving holiday deals sponsored by individual dealers
and manufacturers, including Toyota and Nissan Motor Co
(7201.T: ), lifted sales late in November, analysts said.

“That one day felt like 2006 again,” Toyota brand U.S.
sales chief Bob Carter said of the Friday after Thanksgiving.

SOLID, NOT SPECTACULAR

Paul Ballew, chief economist at Nationwide, said the
November results were “solid” but not “spectacular.”

“The market overall is showing signs of the recovery at the
end of the year we had hoped for,” Ballew said.

Internationally, Japan November car sales fell 31 percent
excluding mini-vehicles, a third consecutive decline. Most
European markets also posted November auto sales declines after
government incentive programs came to an end.

Car sales fell 11 percent in France, 25.5 percent in Spain
and 21 percent in Italy. [ID:nLDE6B00RN]

GM’s shares closed 1.7 percent higher at $34.78 and Ford
shares rose 3.3 percent on the New York Stock Exchange.

Hyundai Motor Co (005380.KS: ) posted a 45 percent jump in
sales in November from a year earlier and set an annual U.S.
sales record for the Korean automaker. Nissan Motor Co Ltd
(7201.T: ) sales rose 27 percent overall.

Honda Motor Co (7267.T: ) sales rose 21 percent.

Sales of GM’s four core U.S. brands rose 21 percent 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. [ID:nN26132869]

GM said its 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 percent from a year earlier.

GM said sales of its new Chevy Cruze helped punch car sales
up 17 percent in November from a year earlier.

Ford left its fourth-quarter production plan intact and
announced that first-quarter 2011 production would be up 11
percent from the first three months of 2010 amid more signs of
growth in the U.S. economy and demand for new vehicles.

The F-Series pickup truck continued to lead Ford sales
overall 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 percent.

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 percent.

TrueCar’s Toprak expects the industry results from October
and November to carry through the last month of 2010 due to
strong sales incentives and improved consumer confidence.

“We are seeing nice momentum going into December,” Toprak
said. “Hopefully that will carry us into 2011 nicely.”

Most industry estimates for 2011 put sales between 12
million and 13 million vehicles. Before the financial crisis,
automakers routinely sold more than 16 million vehicles per
year in the U.S. market.
(Reporting by David Bailey, Kevin Krolicki, Bernie Woodall and
Deepa Seetharaman, editing by Matthew Lewis)

UPDATE 5-US Nov auto sales rise, recovery gains ground