Sales over the Thanksgiving weekend may have been a disappointment for the nation’s retailers, but they were a boon for automakers, lifting their sales in the United States for November to the best rate since before the recession.
Industrywide auto sales rose 8.9 percent in November, to 1.25 million vehicles. At that pace, automakers predicted a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 16.3 million vehicles sold, the highest since May 2007.
“The sales pace picked up exponentially at the end of the month,” said Michelle Krebs, a senior analyst with Edmunds.com. “Automakers did a lot of advertising and marketing, jumping on the Black Friday bandwagon. The result was sales far stronger than anticipated.”
For the year, the industry is expected to sell 15.6 million new vehicles. Driving the demand, analysts said, is a steady recovery in national employment coupled with new models featuring advanced entertainment and fuel-efficient technology.
The November figures, coming after a two-month lull in September and October, were being closely watched by analysts as an indication of the auto industry recovery’s staying power.
“A lot of people are breathing a sigh of relief,” said Mark Wakefield, director in the automotive practice at the global consulting firm AlixPartners. “People are still feeling like we’re recovering, especially since we have support from interest rates.”
New-vehicle sales in November rose across the board for Detroit’s three automakers. General Motors, the largest American carmaker, reported that sales surged 14 percent over the same period last year, thanks to a strong holiday weekend, for its best November since 2007.
Ford’s overall sales, also lifted by the Thanksgiving weekend, increased 7 percent. The company said its November passenger car sales, helped by gains in its Fiesta subcompact and Fusion sedan, were its best since 2002.
Gains for Chrysler, which introduced its new Jeep Cherokee in October, were the best of the Detroit automakers. Chrysler’s sales rose 16 percent, for its 44th consecutive month of year-over-year sales growth and its best November sales in six years. Sales for the automaker’s Jeep brand rose 30 percent, for the strongest November on record.
Toyota’s sales climbed 10 percent because of gains over the Black Friday weekend, said William D. Fay, Toyota’s division group vice president and general manager.
“Industry sales in November picked up after Thanksgiving, contributing to the best sales pace of the year,” Mr. Fay said in a statement. “Showroom traffic surged over the holiday weekend for Toyota, indicating good momentum we expect to continue through the end of the year and into 2014.”
Transaction prices rose while incentives remained flat, indicating consumers’ willingness to spend.
“We’re almost retraining the consumer to not look for the deal but to shop for the car,” Mr. Wakefield said. “That’s healthy.”
G.M. said it had across-the-board demand for cars, crossovers and pickups. The Chevrolet Cruze compact, Equinox crossover and Volt
plug-in hybrid had their best November sales ever.
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“This is not a purely incentive-fueled industry right now,” Mark L. Reuss, G.M.’s North America president, said in a conference call.
Sales across G.M.’s four brands advanced in the double digits.
November’s sales performance showed resilience, said Erich Merkle, Ford’s United States sales analyst.
The automaker’s Fusion and Fiesta set November records, with the Fusion climbing 51 percent and the Fiesta 26 percent. The F-Series pickup truck topped 60,000 sales for the seventh straight month.
“November was fairly typical, producing a strong sales lift around the Thanksgiving holiday,” Mr. Merkle said.
Ford’s transaction prices improved nearly 2 percent in November, despite an increasingly competitive market, “indicating that consumers are willing to pay top dollar for Ford’s current batch of vehicles,” said Alec Gutierrez, a senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book.
A slow but steady recovery in consumer confidence, combined with more available financing, is enough to sway newly employed consumers, Mr. Wakefield said.
“You don’t buy a car if you don’t have a job,” he said. “If you get a job, you often buy a car.”
But a return to pre-recession sales levels next year is not assured, analysts said.
“Concerns over health care costs might lower consumer confidence, while global developments could result in a sudden gas price spike,” said Karl Brauer, a senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book.
And while automakers are adding shifts and ramping up production at their plants, the supply of certain in-demand models may be lumpy, analysts said.
Chrysler said its Jeep brand was helped by its all-new 2014 Jeep Cherokee sport utility vehicle, which recorded a strong first full month of sales, as well as the Wrangler and Patriot, which posted November sales records.
Toyota’s sales improved on new models and heavy incentives. The all-new Corolla compact car and redesigned RAV4 crossover helped the automaker keep its sales strong, while aggressive incentives on the Camry sedan have helped Toyota in the tight midsize sedan market.
Volkswagen, which has struggled in recent months, again lagged its competitors, with sales falling 16 percent because of a lack of new models, analysts said.