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US auto sales climb 11 per cent in 2010

Sales driver: Chevrolet's Equinox SUV helped GM to make up lost ground in the recovering US market.

American market recovery rolls on as Big Three help to drive sales to 11.5 million

5 Jan 2011

UNITED States motor vehicle sales topped 11.5 million in 2010 as Detroit’s Big Three recovered their mojo after dangling over the financial cliff in the global financial crisis the previous year.

The growth represented a 11 per cent recovery for the US industry, and while demand is way short of the heady pre-GFC days when 16 million units were sold in a year, the American new-market sales finished 2010 on a high note, selling 1.14 million light vehicles in December – the best monthly tally for the year.

This puts the market on 12.5 million-vehicle pace, raising hopes that the worst might be behind the American economy as it tip-toes into 2011.

Of the leading contenders, Ford made the biggest headway, up 19 per cent to 1.93 million units for the year – up from 1.67 million last year – on the strength of across-the-board sales growth from a vibrant model range, including its refreshed F-Series pick-up that was America’s top-selling vehicle (528,349 units, up 28 per cent) for the 34th consecutive year.

Among other hits for the Blue Oval were the Edge SUV (up 34 per cent) and born-again Taurus sedan (up 51 per cent).

However, Ford was still short of General Motors which retained its crown as America’s number one car company with 2.21 million sales, up seven per cent on 2009’s 2.07 million vehicles.

80 center imageFrom top: Ford Edge, Ford Taurus, Toyota Camry and Chev Silverado.

When GM’s four surviving brands – Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and GMC – are considered in isolation, the General’s retail sales rose 16 per cent for the year – 118,435 more vehicles than the previous eight brands could manage in 2009.

Sales of the top-selling Chevrolet brand climbed 16 per cent, while Buick volume jumped 52 per cent.

The GM growth was partly driven by a sales surge for its SUVs, including the Chevrolet Equinox.

Chrysler Group joined in the revelry, clawing its way back over one million units, to 1.08 million, with a 17 per cent recovery, capped by a 100,000-unit month in December. Now under the Fiat umbrella, Chrysler’s best advances were made by Jeep (up 26 per cent) and Dodge (up 17 per cent).

Things were not so bright in the Toyota camp, where December group sales fell two per cent to leave the Japanese giant’s American arm flat for the year – 1.76 million units in 2010 versus 1.77 million for 2009.

Toyota seemingly is suffering the fallout from its serial recall fiascos throughout 2010, which dented its previously bulletproof image. Toyota badged passenger cars were hardest hit, down 9.5 per cent year on year.

Toyota’s Camry, however, remained America’s number-one-selling passenger car for the ninth consecutive year, while Lexus was still the number one luxury brand.

Fellow Japanese subsidiary American Honda also failed to take full advantage of the recovery in the US market in 2010, with its Honda/Acura sales climbing seven per cent.

Nissan, however, came on strongly in 2010, with sales of its Nissan and Infiniti-branded vehicles up 18 per cent to 908,570 units.

Hyundai Group – which includes Kia – finished the year with a thumping 37 per cent increase in December sales, giving it an annual increase of 22 per cent, to 894,496 sales.

Volkswagen did its ambitions of making it to world number one by 2020 no harm by increasing American sales of VW and Audi vehicles by 21 per cent to a tick under 360,000.

Subaru continued its strong run in the US, up 22 per cent to 263,820 vehicles, while Mazda climbed 11 per cent, to 229,566 units.

Mitsubishi struggled to make headway, up just three per cent to 55,683 units, and Suzuki had the distinction of the greatest fall, down 38 per cent to a mere 23,994 sales for the 12 months.

Of the European luxury brands, BMW Group maintained its bragging rights over rival Mercedes-Benz, clocking up 266,069 BMW and Mini sales to Daimler’s 230,934 Mercedes/Smart sales.

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