Disappointing December Auto Sales

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Automakers reported December U.S. sales throughout the morning Friday, and it looks like they posted mixed results. Two of the companies are projecting 2013 sales to reach an annual rate of less than 16 million new vehicles sold in 2013, a drop from last month’s estimated sales of more than 16 million unit sales.

Based on analysts’ estimates, the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate for 2013 for November stands at 15.7 million units. Last year’s sales total reached 14.5 million.

New car prices rose 0.6% month-over-month in December, but fell 0.5% year-over-year, according to Kelley Blue Book. The increase from November’s average is a meager $197, to an overall industry average price of $32,890.

Chrysler’s year-over-year sales rose 6% to 161,007 units, as the company’s Dodge, Jeep and Ram truck brands all posted gains in December. Month over month, however, sales rose by almost 19,000 units, or 13%. Sales of the company’s Chrysler brand fell 21% in December, with Chrysler 300 sales down 32% and Chrysler 200 sales down 38%. Chrysler projected a seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales from all manufacturers at 15.8 million units for 2013, substantially below last month’s projection of 16.3 million. The company ended the month with 79 days supply of inventory, much better than the 91 days of supply at the end of November.

Ford Motor Co.’s (NYSE: F) sales rose just 2% to 218,058 Ford and Lincoln vehicles, compared with December 2012 sales of 214,222. Retail sales rose 3% year-over-year in December. For the full year, Ford sales rose 10.8% to nearly 2.5 million units, all but about 82,000 of which were Ford brands.

Sales for General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) fell 6.3% in December to 230,157 vehicles. GM sales rose 14% in December, following a strong showing in October as well. Fleet sales, which were down 3% in November, fell another 0.5% in December. For the year, GM sales are up 10.8%. GM estimates that full-year seasonally adjusted annual rate of U.S. sales for all carmakers will total more than 15.6 million light vehicles sold.

Sales at Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM) for the month totaled 190,843 units, up 2.2% compared with December 2012, and down 1.7% unadjusted to account for an extra sales day in 2012. For the year, adjusted for a comparable number of selling days, Toyota sales were up 7.4% to 2.24 million units. A company executive said, “We expect the economy will continue to gain strength in 2014, with car sales rising to pre-recession levels.”

Volkswagen sold just 34,015 units in the United States in December. That is a drop of 22.7% year-over-year. For the full year, VW sold 407,704 vehicles, compared with 438,133 in 2012, a decline of 6.9%.

Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (NYSE: HMC) reports monthly sales after markets close.

Nissan’s October sales rose 14.2% to more than 91,000 units, but the Japanese automaker reported abysmal quarterly earnings Friday morning and cut its profit forecast by 15%.

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