Dec. 3, 2012 at 9:07 AM ET
It was a dark and stormy late October, thanks to Superstorm Sandy, but that didn't stop consumers from heading to dealerships in November to buy more vehicles.
Pent-up demand because of aging U.S. autos has been helping to drive auto sales for months. November was no exception. Rising consumer confidence and low interest rates have helped also.
Chrysler, majority owned by Fiat , said Monday that sales rose 14 percent to 122,565 cars and trucks, its strongest result since 2007 before a recession pushed the U.S. automaker and General Motors Co into bankruptcy.
Ford sales climbed 6.5 percent, thanks to strong demand for its popular F-Series pickups and its new C-Max hybrid. Ford also said that it would boost first-quarter production by 11 percent in a sign that it's confident the sales pace would continue.
GM, the nation's largest automaker, reported a 3 percent increase from a year earlier, thanks to a 19 percent rise in auto sales. Truck sales slipped 11 percent, however.
Toyota said U.S. sales rose 17 percent. Hyundai said its sales rose 8 percent last month over a year earlier. And Nissan reported U.S. sales rose 13 percent from a year earlier to 96,197 vehicles.
Chrysler predicted that industry-wide sales would run at an annual rate of 15.3 million in November, making it the best month in more than four years. Several analysts expect U.S. sales of new cars and trucks to rise 11 percent to 13 percent in November, with the annual selling rate for the month finishing in the range of 14.7 million to 15.3 million vehicles.
Auto sales are an early indicator each month of U.S. consumer demand.
"We are expecting a strong December as the industry continues to recover from the East Coast hurricane," Chrysler U.S. sales chief Reid Bigland said in a statement.
Superstorm Sandy hurt the last few days of sales in October, when results finished below expectations. In addition, the average age of cars on the road has risen to just above 11 years old, and industry officials say that will continue to drive demand.
"The Black Friday sales period once again provided a strong boost," Dave Zuchowski, executive vice president of sales for Hyundai, said in a statement, referring to the day after Thanksgiving.
"We were also very encouraged by the strong sales recovery experienced in those northeastern regions that were ravaged by superstorm Sandy and expect continued momentum there for the balance of the year," he added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.