DETROIT – Black Friday promotions and falling gas prices drove U.S. auto sales higher in November, kicking off what’s expected to be a strong holiday season.
Chrysler’s sales were up 20 percent to nearly 171,000 vehicles, helping the company to its best November in 13 years. General Motors, Toyota and Volkswagen also reported gains.
Ford’s sales fell 2 percent as it lost critical truck sales. Its new F-150 didn’t arrive at dealerships until the very end of the month. Nissan also reported lower sales as its Infiniti luxury brand struggled.
The TrueCar.com auto pricing site predicts total November U.S. sales will reach 1.3 million, up around 4 percent from a year ago and the fastest pace since August. The hot sales were fueled by deals, like zero-percent financing on new Chevrolets and a $3,500 credit on a new BMW. New vehicles like the Jeep Cherokee and Toyota Camry also drew buyers.
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Low gas prices accelerated a trend toward SUVs. Gas prices fell 23 cents in November to a four-year low of $2.76 per gallon, according to AAA. Sales of the new Nissan Rogue small SUV jumped 44 percent, while the Jeep Cherokee was up 67 percent.
Cars struggled to get noticed. Ford Fusion sales dropped 11 percent, while Nissan Altima sales were down 7 percent. But some new cars saw big gains. Sales of Chrysler’s midsize 200 sedan more than doubled over last November.
GM’s sales rose 6 percent to 226,000. Cadillac sales dropped 19 percent, but Buick and GMC both saw double-digit gains.
Toyota’s sales rose 3 percent as its luxury Lexus brand posted its best November sales ever.
“Auto industry sales during Thanksgiving weekend were even better than expected,” said Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president and general manager.
Sales of Ford’s F-150, the nation’s best-selling vehicle, fell 10 percent to 59,000 as older inventory dwindled and the new 2015 model went into production. Ford won’t be producing the new model at full capacity until early next year.
Ford’s rivals took advantage of the lag time. Ram pickup sales jumped 21 percent to nearly 36,000, while GM sold nearly 69,000 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra trucks.
Despite the deals, it was a profitable month for the industry, with consumers poised to set new spending records as they loaded their vehicles with extras like navigation. As of mid-November, buyers were spending an average of $30,874 per vehicle, or $165 more than the previous record of $30,709 in October, according to consulting firms J.D. Power and LMC Automotive.
Other automakers said Tuesday:
– Volkswagen’s sales rose 3 percent on strong sales of the new Golf subcompact, which was up 78 percent. The recently redesigned Jetta small car was also up 26 percent.
– Nissan’s sales fell 3 percent. Truck and SUV sales were up but were dragged down by weaker car sales. Sales of the electric Leaf were up 34 percent despite low gas prices.