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US auto sales race to 5-year high for November

US auto sales race to 5-year high for November

US auto sales in November raced to a five-year high for that month on a rebound from storm-ravaged October and the need to replace aging vehicles, leaving industry executives optimistic about 2013.
Sales in November rose 15 percent to 1.14 million vehicles, the highest level for that month since 2007, before a recession caused a dramatic decline in demand and led to the bankruptcy filings of General Motors Co and Chrysler.

“Vehicle sales are one of the encouraging spots of our economy,” said Gary Bradshaw, portfolio manager with Hodges Capital Management in Dallas.

Ford Motor Co, Honda Motor Co and Nissan Motor Co posted better-than-expected sales, while

Chrysler Group LLC, Toyota Motor Corp and Hyundai Motor Co also reported strong increases that industry executives and investors said should continue through the end of the year.

However, sales for GM came in short of expectations. The No. 1 U.S. automaker said it benefited less than its rivals from the November recovery after Superstorm Sandy hit the U.S. Northeast as a smaller share of GM’s sales come from that region. It also relied less on incentives.

Auto sales are an early indicator each month of U.S. consumer demand, and the improving housing market and rising consumer confidence have industry executives optimistic heading into 2013.

“Looking at the national picture, the apparent recovery in housing that we talked about last month and the encouraging new data on consumer sentiment and confidence are all positive factors,” Kurt McNeil, GM’s vice president of U.S. Sales operations, said on a conference call.