* GM just short of expectations with 7 pct sales gain
* Nissan sales up 19 pct, VW up 41 pct, Chrysler up 45 pct
* Analysts expect overall sales to be highest since 2009
By Bernie Woodall and Deepa Seetharaman
Dec 1 U.S. auto sales rose sharply in November
as more confident American consumers spent more on the average
showroom purchase, extending a recovery trend for the industry
to a sixth month.
Chrysler Group LLC, Nissan and Volkswagen AG reported double-digit percentage gains sales, putting
the industry total on track for its highest level in more than
General Motors Co posted a sales gain of 7 percent
in November, boosted by sales of profitable pickup trucks, vans
and SUVs, although its overall tally fell short of some analyst
The four automakers were the first to report monthly U.S.
sales results, one of the earliest snapshots of consumer
The industrywide sales rise came despite lower spending on
discounts by the automakers from year-earlier levels. The
average vehicle price rose 4 percent to top $30,000, according
to industry-tracking firm TrueCar.com.
Chrysler sales rose 45 percent, the biggest gain this year
for the company, which is majority owned by Fiat SpA .
Sales for Volkswagen AG, the No. 9 automaker in the U.S.
market, were up almost 41 percent. Nissan, No. 6 in the market,
posted a 19 percent increase.
Analysts have forecast industry sales of 13.4 million
vehicles for November. That would mark the highest annualized
rate since August 2009, when the U.S. government launched its
"cash for clunkers" rebate program.
If projections hold, November would also be the third
straight month that annualized vehicle sales have topped the 13
million mark. U.S. auto sales have been trending higher since
June, despite the weak employment and housing markets.
Auto executives and analysts said the continued gains in
auto sales appeared to be tracking improved consumer
confidence. Consumer sentiment rebounded in November from a 2
1/2-year low in October.
Jonathan Browning, the head of VW in the United States,
said low interest rates and higher trade-in values for used
cars were also lifting auto sales.
"We do see some positive movements in overall consumer
confidence," Browning said.
A rise in pickup truck sales in November also points to a
modest return in demand from business owners in farming and
construction, GM executives said.
"Small business owners need to replace their fleets, and
some of these vehicles are near the end of their useful lives,"
said Alan Batey, head of GM's Chevy brand.
GM's sales chief Don Johnson declined to give a forecast
for 2012 U.S. sales, but said the automaker expected the
positive trend to continue.
"We see continued recovery in the economy," Johnson said,
"and we're hopeful that's going to support auto sales."