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2012-12-12 08:10

CLOUDY SKIES, BUT THINGS LOOKING BRIGHTER: A Toyota dealership’s sign glows over a car sales lot in Tustin, California. A better economy and extra demand after Superstorm Sandy lifted US auto sales in November. Image: AP

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2012 Superstorm Sandy damage

DEE-ANN DURBIN and TOM KRISHER

DETROIT, Michigan - Superstorm Sandy boosted the US auto replacement market so much that November 2012 became the best month for automakers in nearly five years.

Toyota, VW and Chrysler were among the companies that posted impressive increases for November, normally a lacklustre month because of cold weather and holidays. Only GM was left struggling to explain yet another month of weak growth.

CONFIDENCE GROWING

Industry sales rose 15% from a year earlier to 1.1-million, according to AutoData, the fastest pace since January 2008, an US sales will reach 15.5-million for 2012 if orders for insurance replacements continue at the current rate.

Americans are more confident in the economy, a key driver of auto sales. Home values are rising, hiring is up and auto financing remains readily available. And besides just feeling better, people need to replace aging cars or vehicles damaged by Sandy, which ravaged the East Coast at the end of October.

"Everything is kind of moving along almost in concert now," says Jeff Schuster, senior vice-president of forecasting for LMC Automotive, a Detroit industry consulting firm. Sandy added possibly 30 000 sales industry-wide last month.

People who need to replace storm-wrecked vehicles are expected to drive sales for several more months. GM estimates that anywhere from 50 000 to 100 000 vehicles will eventually be replaced.

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