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The U.S. automobile market has completely recovered from the impact of recession in 2013. Auto sales in the nation increased 8% year over year to 15.6 million units during the year.

Sales in December were almost in line with the year-ago level of 1.36 million. Sales on a seasonally adjusted rate (SAAR) basis declined to 15.4 million units in Dec 2013 from 16.4 million vehicles in Nov 2013.

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

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

U.S. Automakers

General Motors recorded 230,157 vehicle sales in December, declining 6% year over year. Retail sales decreased 6%, while fleet sales declined 9%. Annual sales amounted to 2.8 million units, up 7% over 2012. Retail sales for the year also grew 11%.

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 2% hike in total sales, from a year ago, to 218,058 vehicles in Dec 2013. The company has generated year-over-year growth in sales in every month since Nov 2012. Retail sales rose 3% year over year.

Total sales in 2013 amounted to 2,493,918 units, buoyed by the annual sales record set by Ford Fiesta, Fusion and Escape. The Ford F-Series pickup truck line was the best-selling truck in the U.S. for the 37th consecutive year. It was also the best-selling vehicle in the nation for the 32nd year, driven by recovery in the U.S. economy and improved housing construction.

Chrysler Group – controlled by Italy’s Fiat S.p.A (FIATY) – recorded a 6% year-over-year rise in sales, bringing the figure to 161,007 vehicles. Chrysler witnessed year-over-year increase in monthly sales for 45 consecutive months. Even the annual sales of Chrysler improved 9% year over year.

Japanese Automakers

Toyota sales declined 1.7% year over year on a volume basis to 190,843 units in Dec 2013. Sales increased 2.2% year over year in terms of daily selling rate (DSR). In 2013, Toyota registered sales of 2,236,042 units, up 7.4% on both DSR and volume basis.

Honda recorded a 5.9% year-over-year increase in sales on DSR basis and 1.9% increase on volume basis to 135,255 vehicles in Dec 2013 due to higher sales of Honda and Acura brands. Annual sales surged 7.2% over 2012 to 1,525,312 units.

Nissan Motor posted a 10.5% year-over-year increase in sales to 109,758 vehicles in December. Sales in 2013 also climbed 9.4% to 1,248,420 units, due to increase in sales of the Nissan Division, which offset the decline in sales of the Infiniti Division.

Outlook

While the cold weather and high November sales led to a decline in sales in December, the outlook for 2014 remains strong.  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.

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

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