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The beginning of the holiday shopping season on Thanksgiving saw a surge in automobile sales in the U.S. An improving U.S. economy and strong sales over the Thanksgiving weekend and Cyber Monday resulted in robust November sales.

Auto sales in the nation increased 9% year over year to 1.24 million units in Nov 2013. Sales on a seasonally adjusted rate (SAAR) basis climbed 7.2% from Nov 2012 to 16.4 million vehicles. This is the highest SAAR since Feb 2007. The strong year-over-year growth is commendable considering that sales in Nov 2012 surged due to high replacement demand following Hurricane Sandy.

Most major automakers like Ford Motor Co. (F - Analyst Report), General Motors (GM - Analyst Report), Chrysler, Toyota Motor Corp. (TM - Analyst Report) and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (NSANY) reported high sales in Nov 2013, although Honda Motor Co., Ltd. (HMC - Analyst Report) witnessed a year-on-year dip. Chrysler led in terms of year-over-year increase in sales, followed by General Motors.

Ford recorded the best November retail sales since 2004, while Chrysler witnessed the best November sales since 2007. General Motors also saw the best November sales in six years. Furthermore, Nissan created a new November U.S. sales record.

Let's look at the U.S. sales figures reported by the individual automakers.

U.S. Automakers

General Motors recorded 212,060 vehicle sales in November, rising 14% year over year due to strong demand for all 4 brands – Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick. Retail sales increased 19%, although fleet sales declined 3%.

The company is launching many vehicles in 2014, including Chevrolet Colorado, the revamped Cadillac Escalade and the ELR. New heavy-duty pickups and large SUVs under the GMC and Chevrolet brands are also set for release. These additions are likely to improve sales in the coming months.

Ford reported a 7% hike in total sales, from a year ago, to 190,449 vehicles. The company has generated year-over-year growth in sales in every month since Nov 2012. Retail sales rose 9% to 147,021 vehicles. The impressive performance was mainly driven by strong demand for its F-Series pickup truck, Fusion and Fiesta. Sales of Fusion surged 51% to 22,839 units. Fiesta and Fusion saw their highest November sales. Sales of F-Series pickup truck grew 16% to 65,501 units.

Chrysler Group – controlled by Italy’s Fiat S.p.A (FIATY) – recorded a 16% year-over-year rise in sales, bringing the figure to 142,275 vehicles, driven by strong demand for its Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram Truck brands. Chrysler has witnessed year-over-year increase in monthly sales for 44 consecutive months. Ram truck’s sales gained 25%, while the Jeep brand’s sales jumped 30%. Even the Chrysler and the Dodge brands’ sales improved 12% and 4% year over year, respectively.

Japanese Automakers

Toyota sales increased 10.18% on a volume basis to 178,044 units. Sales increased 5.9% year over year in terms of daily selling rate (DSR). Sales in the Toyota division improved 9.7% on the basis of volume and 5.5% on DSR basis to 152,433 units. Lexus sales rose 8.4% on DSR basis and 12.7% on volume basis to 25,611 units.

Honda, however, recorded a 3.9% year-over-year decrease in sales on DSR basis and 0.1% decline on volume basis to 116,507 vehicles due to lower sales in the Honda division, offsetting the increase in the Acura brand. While sales in the Honda division declined 2.3% to 101,948 units, the Acura division’s sales expanded 18.9% to 14,559 vehicles.

Nissan Motor posted a 10.7% year-over-year increase in sales to 106,528 vehicles in November. Sales in the Nissan division also climbed 10.8% to 93,376 units, due to significant increase in sales of Sentra, Altima, LEAF and Frontier models. Even the sales of the Infiniti Division hiked 10.5% to 13,152 units in the month.

Outlook

This strong sales trend is expected to continue in December, which generally witnesses high luxury car sales.  In the long term, sales are expected to rise on the back of strong pent-up demand, easier car financing and low gas prices. Additionally, improving macroeconomic conditions such as low interest rates, reduced unemployment rates and recovery of the housing market, are likely to boost sales. These catalysts are expected to drive U.S. auto sales to pre-recession levels.

General Motors expects full-year sales to exceed its guided range of 15.0–15.5 million units, while Ford projects annual sales in the band of 15.0–16.0 million units in the U.S., compared with 14.5 million unit sales recorded in 2012.

As the automobile sector is a key industry for growth, improving auto sales will help the overall U.S. economy’s recovery.

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