The Good & Bad of 8.1% December New Car Sales Growth (GM, F, HMC, TM)

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New car sales in the US for December are forecast to rise 8.1%, including fleet sales, to an annual seasonally adjusted sales rate of 13.5 million new vehicles. The annualized sales rate is down slightly from 13.7 million units in November, but well above the 12.5 million unit sales in December 2010.

The forecast comes from and should be welcome news for automakers General Motors Col (NYSE: GM), Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F), Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (NYSE: HMC), and Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM). Unfortunately for Honda and Toyota, sales from both are expected to decline.

In December, sales of GM cars is expected to rise by 29.4% compared with November sales, while Ford sales are expected to rise by 22.1%. Honda’s sales are expected to decline by -29.9% in the month and Toyota’s sales are expected to fall by -26.4%.

GM is also expected to lead the industry in market share in December, with 19.6%, followed by Ford with 16.6% and Toyota with 15.5%. Honda is expected to post share of 11.3% in December.

Another bit of good news is that the cost of incentives is dropping for most makers. As a group, these four plus Hyundai/Kia, Nissan, and Chrysler will spend about 3% less this year in December on buyer incentives. The average new car incentive is $2,562 in December.

The highest percentage growth for the full year goes to Hyundai/Kia, which is expected to sell nearly 40% more cars this year than it did in 2010. Sales of Chrysler cars are expected to rise by 33.8%, but from a very low base.

Paul Ausick