Sales of U.S.-built autos extend winning streak in early Nov.


DETROIT -- U.S. sales of domestically made cars in early November blew past all expectations, continuing near October's record showing and dispelling analysts' theories that consumers have already abandoned showrooms in favor of shopping malls for holiday gift buying.

U.S. car sales for the Nov. 1-10 period reached an annual rate of 7.0 million, while sales of domestically made pickup trucks, minivans and sport-utility vehicles reached an annual rate of 5.4 million, domestic automakers said today.

Analysts polled by Bloomberg Business News Friday expected car sales for early November to reach an annual rate of only 6.5 million, and light truck sales at 4.8 million.

"These are pretty strong numbers," David Healy, analyst with S.G. Warburg & Co. in New York. "This shows consumers must be pretty nearsighted when it comes to sticker shock, with all those price increases out there."

Including sales of imported cars and trucks, which are reported by manufacturers on a monthly basis only, U.S. vehicle sales in early November reached an annual pace of 14.8 million, down only slightly from 15 million in October.

"Imports are still pretty weak," Mr. Healy said, meaning that Detroit's Big Three are continuing to make gains following steeper price increases among Japanese automakers to offset effects of a stronger Japanese yen vs. the U.S. dollar.

U.S. car sales for all of October reached an annual rate of 7.1 million, the best showing in more than three years. Strong sales gains by auto dealers helped push overall U.S. retail sales 1.5 percent higher in October, the largest such gain in six months, the Commerce Department said Friday.

Overall, U.S. automakers sold an estimated 160,530 domestically built cars in the Nov. 1-10 period, up 13.1 percent from 126,127 in the year-earlier period. Percent changes are based on sales per day.

Sales of industry leader General Motors Corp.'s domestically made cars in early November rose 18 percent, to 71,994. GM's light truck sales rose 13.6 percent, to 45,143, when measured by sales per day.

Ford Motor Co.'s domestic car sales rose 2.1 percent, to 44,957, from a year earlier when measured by sales per day. Ford's light truck sales rose 12.4 percent.

Chrysler's early November car sales were estimated by Ward's Automotive Reports at 17,800, up 9.5 percent from the year-earlier period, while its U.S. truck sales were estimated at 28,900, up 0.7 percent.

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