By Jeff Gilbert

DETROIT(WWJ) – Despite a slower-than-expected December, 2013 will go down as a strong year for car and truck sales. Major carmakers sold around 15.6 million vehicles last year, an increase of around eight percent.

“We’re undeniably hitting numbers we haven’t seen for a long time,” said Kelly Blue Book analyst Karl Brauer. “We’re about back to pre-recession levels.”

General Motors 2013 sales were up 7 percent. Chrysler sales were up 9 percent. Ford 11 percent.

“When you consider that we were at, give or take, ten and a half million not so long ago–to be a fifty percent gain in a few years–I think everyone’s happy about that, said Brauer.”

December sales, however, were up only about one percent over last year, when analysts were expecting a five per cent sales increase. Rough weather around the holidays likely had an impact.

“It definitely had some level of impact, no question,” said General Motors Sales Operations Manager Kurt McNeil. “As the big storm swept across the mid-west, which we were typically very strong in, and carried over to the northeast, it definitely impacted us here at the end of the month.”

GM sales fell 6 per cent in December. Chrysler sales were up 6 percent, Ford up 2 per cent. Chrysler’s strong performance due, in part, to strong sales of the new Jeep Cherokee.

“It continues to have a very strong launch in the marketplace,” said Chrysler spokesman Ralph Kisiel. “Sales of the Cherokee topped 15,000 units in December. That was only its second full month on sale.”

Nissan was one of the few brands that had a great December, with sales up 10.5 percent.

Analysts aren’t concerned about the December slowdown, saying you need to look at the long term picture.

“2013 was an extremely good year,” says analyst Michelle Krebs. “I think it was a solid, healthy year, because it wasn’t driven by super big incentives. It was on its merits.”

And while pickup trucks and utilities lead the way, small cars and mid size cars also had a good year.

“Our retail sales were up across the entire portfolio,” says Ford analyst Erich Merkle.

Analysts expect sales to rise above 16 million in 2014. And as the industry closes the books on 2013, analyst Jessica Caldwell says it was a year that had few surprises.

“It felt very normal. There didn’t seems to be any real extraneous events.”

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Twitter: @jefferygilbert


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