CHICAGO The top seven automakers sold more than 13.3 million light vehicles in the United States in 2013, a 7.6-percent jump from 12.4 million vehicles the previous year.
The biggest percentage gains were reported by Ford Motor Co. (up 10.8 percent), Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (a 9.4-percent increase) and Chrysler Group LLC (up 9 percent).
Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford sold 763,402 F-Series pickup trucks in 2013, the most since 2006, while Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Chryslers gains were led by growth in sales of its Ram pickup trucks, along with an 11-percent jump in car sales. Nissan said that 2013 was the best year in its U.S. sales history.
Sales totaled 1.14 million vehicles last month, up 9 percent from November and 0.4 percent higher than December last year.
Market observers expect additional sales growth this year.
Kelley Blue Book Co. anticipates that the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate will increase 4.3 percent to 16.3 million vehicles in 2014, surpassing the 16-million mark for the first time since 2007.
Consultancy IHS Automotive forecast that U.S. light vehicle demand will rise to 16 million units in 2014 from close to 15.7 million in 2013, while North American production will climb 4.3 percent to 16.9 million vehicles from 16.2 million last year.
"Everyone waiting for new car sales to pass the pre-recession threshold of 16 million will finally be rewarded in 2014," said Edmunds chief economist Lacey Plache, who forecast that sales will reach 16.4 million vehicles as "car buyers ... (take) further advantage of more freely flowing credit to refresh the oldest vehicle fleet in history."
Sales in 2014 also will benefit from an expected 300,000 additional drivers who will lease or buy a new vehicle when their current leases end, according to Edmunds.
"While economic growth will remain modest overall, enough progress has been made that car buyers will be largely undeterred by the next rounds of U.S. fiscal crises," Plache said.
In the perennial battle for market share, U.S.-based automakers maneuvered a 0.7-percentage-point gain in 2013 vs. the previous year as they sold 582,695 more vehicles. Although Japanese-brand sales increased by 362,829 vehicles in 2013, their market share was flat at 37.5 percent. Korean brands Hyundai and Kia lost a 0.8-percentage-point market share, selling some 4,600 fewer vehicles.