U.S. car sales extend strong showing Increase is 16% for mid-November


DETROIT -- U.S. sales of domestically made cars increased 16.4 percent in mid-November from year-earlier levels, maintaining the relatively robust pace seen since early October with an annual selling rate of 7 million.

Sales of domestically made pickup trucks, minivans and sport-utility vehicles surged 26 percent in the Nov. 11-20 period to an annual rate of 5.5 million. Sales exceeded expectations, showing the continued strength in this market segment as more people trade in their cars for light trucks.

Light trucks accounted for 44.4 percent of total vehicle sales in mid-November, up from 42.5 percent a year ago.

"A lot of economic indicators that tend to correlate with auto sales have picked up," said analyst Michael Luckey, head of the Luckey Consulting Group in Woodcliff Lake, N.J. "Housing starts have been on fire and overall payrolls have grown by about 160,000 jobs per month over the last two months. There's more spending power out in the market."

Sales of domestically made cars have been running at an average annual rate of about 6.9 million in the past 90 days, Mr. Luckey said. Still, there could be a modest decline in late November and December as consumers concentrate on holiday spending, he said. "It's tough to compete with Santa Claus," he ** said.

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