General Motors Corp. and Ford
Motor Co. on Wednesday both reported gains in December U.S.
light vehicle sales that surpassed analysts' expectations,
topping off the best year ever for the U.S. auto industry.
The results announced by the two automakers, following
strong results from DaimlerChrysler AG and foreign automakers on
Tuesday, pushed the industry to about 17.5 million light vehicle
sales for the year, breaking the previous record of 16.03
million sales set in 1986.
GM, the world's largest automaker, said U.S. sales of light
vehicles last month, excluding its Saab unit, rose 6.4 percent
to 422,330 cars and trucks. Analysts had expected the firm to
report a sales gain of 1 to 1.3 percent.
Ford, the world's No. 2 automaker, said its December sales,
excluding its Jaguar and Volvo units, rose 2.1 percent,
exceeding analysts' estimates of a 3.8 to 4 percent decline.
After launching a wave of incentives to boost its slumping
market share, GM, the world's No. 1 automaker, said its pickup
trucks, sport utilities and minivans jumped 21.5 percent to
226,892 for the month, much stronger than analysts had expected.
Car sales fell 7 percent to 195,438, brought down by lower
fleet sales. Total light vehicle sales were 425,250 compared to
400,427. GM finished the year up 8.8 percent at 4,947,359.
Ford had an 11.7 percent rise in its traditional Ford,
Lincoln and Mercury car lines in December to 178,065. Light
trucks slipped 5.4 percent to 192,040. Ford ended up 5.9 percent
ahead of last year with 4,633,099 vehicles.
Ford also owns the Jaguar and Volvo European car brands.
Including sales of both of those companies, Ford's total
December sales rose 0.5 percent from a year ago.
Jaguar earlier Wednesday said its sales more than doubled to