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GM December Sales Fall 6%; Ford and Chrysler Gain

DETROIT ( TheStreet) --  GM (GM - Get Report) reported a disappointing 6% sales decline in December, but overall 2013 was successful for the Detroit Three as the U.S. auto industry reported a fourth consecutive year of sales gains.

In December, Ford (F - Get Report) sales rose 2% to 218,058 vehicles. Chrysler sales rose 5.7% to 152,367, the group's best December total since 2007. GM sales declined 6% to 230,157 as retail sales fell 6% and fleet sales fell 9%. Ford estimated that December sales overall rose 3%. Toyota (TM) sales fell 1.7% to 190,843 units.

For the full year, GM sales rose 7% to 2.8 million vehicles, with retail sales up 11%, while Ford sales rose 10.8% to 2,493,918, making Ford the best-selling U.S. brand for the fourth consecutive year. Ford Fiesta, Fusion and Escape all set annual sales records. Chrysler Group sales rose 9% in 2013, marking the fourth consecutive year of sales growth.  Toyota sales rose 7.4% to 2,236,042 units.

Ford estimated that overall industry sales would grow 7% to 8% in 2013. 

"The auto industry was a consistent bright spot in the economic recovery throughout 2013," said Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president and general manager, in a prepared statement. "We expect the economy will continue to gain strength in 2014, with car sales rising to pre-recession levels."

In mid-morning trading, GM shares were down $1.11 to $39.84, following the company's sales report. Ford shares were down 4 cents to $15.40.

"December started a little slow but sales were stronger later in the month, especially in the week between Christmas and New Year's," said Kurt McNeil, GM vice president, U.S. sales operations, in a prepared statement.

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Overall, "2013 was the year that GM and the auto industry put the last traces of the recession in the rearview mirror," McNeil said. "We have announced more than $10 billion in capital investments in the United States since 2009 and plowed billions more into R&D to refresh our product portfolio at twice the rate of the last few years."

At Ford, December Fusion sales rose 27% to 24,408, while full-year sales rose 22% to 295,280. Fiesta full-year sales rose 25% to 71,073. Escape sales rose 22% for the month to 24,462 and 13% for the year to 295,993. F-Series sales totaled 74,592 in December and 763,402 for the full year, the best year since 2006. Lincoln sales rose 8% in December. But Focus sales fell 31% to 15,569 as small car sales slumped.

"December was a strong close to an even better year for Ford Motor Company," said John Felice, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service, in a prepared statement. "We saw strong growth across the entire Ford lineup and made significant gains in the import-dominated coastal markets. He said Ford let major automakers in 2013 share point gain.

Chrysler said it has posted year-over-year sales gains for 45 consecutive months. In December, Jeep sales rose 34% to 53,275 as sales of the new Cherokee mid-size SUV totaled 15,038. Meanwhile, Wrangler and Jeep Patriot each recorded their best December sales ever. However, Dodge brand sales fell 9% to 47,689 and Chrysler brand sales fell 21% to 20, 270.

For the full year, Ram Truck led the group with a 22% sales gain to 367,843. .Dodge brand sales rose 14% to 596,343, while Jeep sales rose 3% to 490,454 and Chrysler brand fell 2% to 302,492.

Meanwhile, Kelley Blue Book said the average transaction price increased by an average of $197 month-over-month in December. The estimated average transaction price for light vehicles in the United States was $32,890, up 0.6% from November but down $159 (0.5 percent) compared with the same month a year earlier.

GM average transaction prices saw little change year-over-year, the firm said, although Buick pricing fell 4.9% due to the introduction of the smaller, less costly Encore. GMC pricing rose 4.4%, Cadillac rose 1.4% and Chevrolet was flat. Ford pricing was down as F-150 pricing fell 1.3%, Escape pricing fell 1.7% and Focus pricing fell 2.6%.

Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.
To contact this writer, click here.
Follow @tedreednc

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