Automakers sold more cars and trucks to U.S. buyers in the last two months than in any other November and December in history. Automotive News reported that entering its sixth consecutive year of growth, the market could top 17 million units for the first time since 2001.
If that weren’t enough, an improving economy, plunging gasoline prices and easy credit are encouraging consumers to buy bigger, pricier, more lucrative vehicles. The three most popular vehicles of 2014 were all pickups — a segment with transaction prices averaging more than $44,000. The last time a sedan didn’t make the top three was 2003.
“This is going to be a really healthy 17 million,” said Jesse Toprak, chief analyst for Cars.com. “There’s substance behind the growth this time, and there’s not a bubble. It’s real demand.”
Toprak said he expects light-vehicle sales of 17.2 million units in 2015. TrueCar and LMC Automotive are calling for 17 million as well, and General Motors cited 17 million as the upper range of its forecast. TrueCar says revenue from new vehicles should reach a record high $553 billion.
For 2014, U.S. sales totaled 16.5 million, 6% more than the previous year and the most since 2006. Fourth-quarter sales topped 4 million, the second-highest volume ever for that period, according to the Automotive News Data Center.
Combined sales for November and December were more than 2.8 million, breaking the previous record for those two months by about 68,000. Sales rose 11% from the previous year in December alone.
Thirteen brands set U.S. records last year, including Honda, Jeep, Nissan and Subaru. Only two major automakers — Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen Group of America — posted declines, with Ford’s market share falling a full point to 14.9%, its lowest level since 2008, counting only domestic brands.
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