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2011 car sales end with a surge

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Losing momentum: the new 2012 Toyota Camry.

By Joseph Szczesny, TheDetroitBureau.com

Countering earlier concerns about a double-dip recession, U.S. auto sales wrapped up a skittish 2011 on a positive note, surging in the final weeks of the year, with Detroit’s automakers helping drive the overall market to its highest level since the start of the long economic downturn.

Overall sales of new cars, trucks and crossovers increased by 10.2% during 2011, largely paced by a surge in demand for domestic brands. General Motors, Chrysler Group LLC and Ford Motor Co. all finished 2011 with double-digit increases over the previous year. Vollkswagen also reported a 26% gain for 2011 as its new lineup of cars – especially the American-made 2012 VW Passat – has clicked with customers.

Chrysler Group reported U.S. sales of 138,019 units, a 37% increase compared with sales in December 2010 and the group’s best monthly volume since May 2008.

Ford Motor Co. also reported a 16% increase, while GM reported a modest 5% increase.

For the year, Chrysler Group sales totaled 1.37 million units, up 26% versus sales in 2010, the largest percentage sales gain of any full-line manufacturer. The Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, and Ram Truck brands each posted solid sales gains during 2011 compared with 2010.

Ford sales finished 2011 with a 17% increase as the flagship “Blue Oval” brand saw sales top 2 million units for the first time since 2007.

Meanwhile, with Chevrolet gaining momentum from a variety of new and older models, GM reported a 14% increase.

“The year finished on a high note, with industry sales momentum strengthening as the year came to a close,” said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service. “We saw Ford sales strengthen as well, posting our best December retail sales month since 2005 and closing the year as America’s best-selling brand.”

Reid Bigland, Chrysler Group US Sales chief, noted December marked Chrysler Group’s 21st-consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains and seventh-consecutive month of sales increases of at least 20%.

“Chrysler Group finished a year of growth on a strong note with our December retail sales soaring 45% to our highest dealer retail sales in four years,” Bigland said.  “Looking back, we were the fastest-growing automaker in the country, increasing our market share 1.3%age points during 2011,” he said.

The group’s 37% December increase was driven in part by strong sales of the Chrysler 300 flagship sedan, Chrysler 200 mid-size sedan, Dodge Charger and Avenger sport sedans, Ram pickup truck, and the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Wrangler, and Compass.

Despite concerns about rising inventories, Chrysler Group finished the month with a comfortable 64-day supply of inventory (326,087 units). U.S. industry sales figures for December are projected at an estimated 14 million SAAR.

Royal Oak-based Saab Car USA also reported selling 270 vehicles, down significantly from the 1,074 units sold in December, 2010. However, Saab managed to increase its overall sales in the U.S. despite the financial troubles that forced it into bankruptcy.

Porsche Cars USA also reported a 15% increase in sales for 2011.

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