US car makers report disappointing December sales

Chrysler dealership

General Motors (GM) has reported a fall in car sales in December in what was a disappointing month for US car makers.

GM shares fell 2.4% after it reported a 6.3% fall in sales compared with December 2012.

Ford and Chrysler both reported rising sales, but not the increases that industry analysts were expecting.

Chrysler sold 161,000 cars and trucks in December, up 5.7% on the same period in 2012 and Ford reported a 1.8% rise in December sales.

Slow December

Analysts said that poor weather in parts of the US kept customers away from dealerships in December.

"At the very beginning of the month the pace of buying was slow because there were so many storms around the country," said senior analyst Michelle Krebs.

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Trucks on the road are even older than cars on the road”

End Quote Michelle Krebs

"Now what we're seeing is some of the automakers are stretching their December deals into January."

Kurt McNeil, vice president, of US sales for GM, said: "December started a little slow but sales were stronger later in the month, especially in the week between Christmas and New Year."

Meanwhile Ford said that a four-day weekend for Thanksgiving late in November may have brought forward sales that would have fallen in December.

For Chrysler the Jeep brand continued to be a strong performer with a 34% rise in sales last month.

With a 9% rise in annual sales, 2013 was the strongest year for Chrysler since 2007.

"Our Jeep and Ram truck brands had a strong finish led by the all new 2014 Jeep Cherokee and the Ram pickup truck," said Reid Bigland, head of US sales.

Truck boost

Overall, sales in 2013 were strong for the big three Detroit car manufacturers, who were helped along by strong sales of their truck offerings.

Chrysler Ram truck on snow Truck sales in 2013 were particularly strong as car markers introduced new models

Truck sales tend to increase in relation to home sales, which were strong for much of the year as the US economic recovery spurred long-delayed housing activity.

"Trucks on the road are even older than cars on the road," said Ms Krebs.

She added: "There are lots of new products: Chrysler came out with a new Ram pick-up truck, GM introduced its new trucks this fall and Toyota had a new Tundra model" which further enticed consumers.

Toyota reverses

However, Toyota, the third biggest player in the US market, didn't do as well as the US manufacturers.

It saw sales in December decline by 1.7% from a year ago to 190,843.

Analysts had been expecting Toyota to report rising sales.

But 2013 is expected to be the best year for US auto market since 2007, with total annual sales of about 15.6 million.

That would be a strong recovery from 2009 when sales fell to 10.4 million during the depths of the recession.

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