CHICAGO, Illinois - US auto sales jumped 13.4% in 2012 to their best performance since the crash of 2008 as better economic times, hot new models and the need to replace aging vehicles drew consumers to showrooms.
DRIVEN TO SPEND: 2012 was a good year for the US auto market,with sales reaching their best figures since 2008.
It was the biggest yearly gain since 1984.
Toyota, Honda and Chrysler outpaced their rivals with sales gains that blew past 20% while Ford and General Motors posted modest growth that led their market share to shrink significantly.
Total industry sales came in at 14.5-million vehicles, up from 12.8-million in 2011 and a low of 10.6-million in 2009, according to Autodata and Ward's Auto.
Prior to the 2008 crash, US auto sales had not dipped below 15-million since the recession of 1993.
Ford forecast that 2013 sales would rise to between 15 and 16-million vehicles in the United States while global sales will come in between 80 and 85-million.
Ford economist Ellen Hughes-Cromwick said: "Overall, we expect global sales to grow this year, supported by an ongoing recovery in the US as well as improving sales in China.Gains in these markets are offset somewhat by the weakness in the European markets."
CAUSE FOR OPTIMISM
GM forecast somewhat more modest growth of 15 to 15.5-million in the coming year. Sales chief Kurt McNeil believed there was cause for optimism in 2013 due to "GM's strong finish in 2012, the industry's momentum and the overall health of the US economy".
GM's sales grew four percent in 2012 to 2.6-million after it its best December in five years with deliveries up five percent year-on-year to 245 733.
The sluggish growth pushed GM's share of the US market to the lowest level in decades - 17.9% against 19.6% in 2011. GM sold one in every four cars in the US as recently as 2005 and one in every three back in 1993.
"We're always concerned about market share. Always," said Mark Reuss, head of GM North America, "but we're not going to give it away like we did in the past and burn the residuals and the brand values in anticipation of the biggest product portfolio launch that we've had in history."
Toyota and Honda saw sales climb sharply as they recovered from the devastating tsunami which smashed their supply chain in 2011 by luring customers with new and updated offerings. Toyota reported a 27% gain in 2012 sales to nearly 2.1-million as December sales rose nine percent to 194 143 while its market share rose 1.5 points to 14.4% in 2012, placing the Japanese giant solidly in third place.
Toyota Motor Sales USA’s chief Jim Lentz said: "As we move into 2013 and the market sees continued growth, we expect to outperform the industry once again with nine product launches on the horizon."
Honda sales jumped 24% to more than 1.4-million in 2012 - its fourth-best yet - as December sales rose 26% to 132 774. Its market share grew by just under a point to 9.8%, according to Autodata.
"Honda began the year intent on recovery," said John Mendel, head of sales at American Honda. We ended 2012 with multiple product awards, a host of sales records, Honda's second-best December and tremendous momentum as we head into 2013."
Ford reported its best December sales since 2006, though the brand grew just two percent from the same month a year earlier to 214 222 vehicles.
The No.2 US automaker's 2012 sales rose five percent from 2011 to nearly 2.3-million on the strength of the Ford brand, which was the only one to top two-million in annual US sales.However, its market share fell nearly a point to 15.5%.
Ken Czubay, head of Ford US sales, said: "We're looking forward to a great 2013 as we begin the year with the product and capacity in place to expand our share."
Chrysler - which has posted nearly three years of consecutive sales gains - saw its sales jump 21% to nearly 1.7-million in 2012 while its share climbed a half-point to 11.1%. The third-largest US automaker's December sales grew by a more modest 10% from a year earlier to 152 367 but nonetheless marked Chrysler's best December since 2007.
Volkswagen, which sees strong growth in the US market as key to its attempt at gaining the global sales crown, also celebrated strong gains. Sales jumped 35% to 438 133 in 2012 after it posted its best December since 1970 with sales up 35%. Its share grew a half-point to three percent.
Nissan's share shrank slightly to 7.9% as its sales grew by 10% to just over a million.
Hyundai's share shrank modestly to 4.9% of the US market as its sales rose nine percent to just over 703 000. Sister brand Kia's share was flat at 3.8% though its sales grew 15% to nearly 558 000.