US car sales rise 13.4% to hit five-year high

Toyota dealership
Image caption Japanese carmakers have staged a recovery after the earthquake and tsunami disrupted supply chains in 2011

US car sales rose 13.4% in 2012, making it the best year for the industry since 2007, industry figures have shown.

General Motors sold the most number of cars and light trucks, 2.5 million for the year. Total sales across the industry came in at 14.5 million.

Japanese car companies recovered from supply chain disruption in 2011 taking more market share.

Higher US sales in 2012 were driven by the recovering economy and increased availability of credit.

Volkswagen saw the biggest jump in sales, an increase of 35%. Toyota Motor sales rose 27% while Honda posted a 24% increase.

2013 forecasts

Analysts looking ahead to this year forecast further gains in the industry.

Carmakers were also predicting increased sales, with Ford saying overall industry sales would rise to between 15 and 16 million vehicles in the US.

General Motors (GM) predicted more modest sales of 15 to 15.5 million in the year to come.

"GM's strong finish in 2012, the industry's momentum and the overall health of the US economy make us optimistic about 2013," said sales chief at GM Kurt McNeil.

Sales at GM rose by 3.7% in 2012. However, that level of growth meant GM lost market share which fell to 17.9% compared to 19.6% in 2011.

In contrast, Toyota and Honda saw market share climb sharply from last year when they suffered major supply chain disruptions after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Toyota said 2012 sales reached nearly 2.1 million and its market share rose 1.5 percentage points to 14.4%.

"As we move into 2013 and the market sees continued growth, we expect to outperform the industry once again with another nine product launches on the horizon," said Jim Lentz, chief of Toyota Motor Sales in the US.