New vehicles sold like gangbusters last month, with several brands setting all-time records for November.
Foreign nameplates generally reported stronger gains than domestic brands, helped by new products such as the new-generation Honda Accord and a new Nissan Pathfinder sport-utility vehicle.
Some analysts also said the import makes offered bigger discounts and other incentives on their passenger cars, which appear to be the hottest segment of the market.
American Honda Motor Co. reported that sales jumped 39% in November compared with the same month last year, reaching 116,580 vehicles, an all-time record for the month.
"We are now surpassing sales records set pre-recession, a true sign that our business has recovered," said John Mendel, executive vice president of sales at American Honda.
Likewise, Nissan North America reported record November U.S. sales of 96,197 vehicles, up 13%
"Nissan's significant portfolio refresh of five new models in 15 months is showing results with the new Pathfinder driving sales of the model up nearly 250%," said Al Castignetti, vice president, Nissan Division.
BMW reported the best U.S. sales month ever in November with sales of 31,213, an increase of 45%.
Hyundai Motor America said its sales rose 8% to 53,487 vehicles, also a U.S. record for the brand.
“The Black Friday sales period once again provided a strong boost for Hyundai in the back half of the month and helped break our all-time November sales record,” said Dave Zuchowski, executive vice president of sales. “We were also very encouraged by the strong sales recovery experienced in those northeastern regions that were ravaged by Superstorm Sandy and expect continued momentum there for the balance of the year.”
Indeed, Ken Czubay, vice president of U.S. sales at Ford Motor Co., estimates that 20,000 to 30,000 vehicles were purchased last month industrywide to replace vehicles destroyed by Sandy.
Edmunds.com estimates that the superstorm damaged or destroyed as many as 250,000 vehicles, an amount Edmunds said would boost sales of new cars and trucks by 65,000 to 80,000.
Analysts estimate that automakers sold more than 1.1 million vehicles last month for a seasonally adjusted annual rate of about 15 million.
It appeared to be the highest annual sales rate since February 2008, said Jesse Toprak, an analyst for auto information company TrueCar.com.
General Motors Co. reported its highest November U.S. sales volume since 2007, with deliveries up 3% from a year earlier to 186,505 vehicles.
Ford said its sales rose 6.5% to 177,673 vehicles last month.
Chrysler Group said its sales rose 14% to 122,565 units, it’s best November sales since 2007.
Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. said its sales rose 17% to 161,695 vehicles.
Volkswagen Group said sales of its VW brand rose 29% to 36,728 vehicles. It was VW's best November since 1973.