Fresh from a fifth year of growth in the United States, carmakers are rolling into the new year with yet another sign of good fortune: Cheap fuel is gassing up truck sales.
According to a report in The Columbian, consumers bought more pickups, minivans and sport utility vehicles than cars in every month of 2014. That’s something Detroit’s carmakers and their rivals haven’t enjoyed since 2004 when a barrel of oil sold for less than $40. And the industry’s bonanza in the world’s most valuable market should continue.
Hot-selling pickups like the Ram 1500 and luxury SUVs such as the Cadillac Escalade command higher prices and fatter profits than most passenger cars. Available credit, cheap gas, and good lease deals have given consumers the confidence to buy more of both. All automakers are projected to report on Monday that sales rose in December. Last month’s annualized sales pace, adjusted for seasonal trends, may have been 16.9 million — down slightly from November, but still the third fastest of 2014.
“What a way to close out this blockbuster year for the industry,” said John Krafcik, president of TrueCar, a website tracking car prices for consumers. “With the strongest demand in a decade, gains in highly profitable segments and modest incentive growth, automakers should be grinning as they close the books.”
Dealers last month may have sold 1.5 million cars and light trucks, the average of seven analysts’ estimates, which would bring the full-year total to 16.5 million and cap a 58 percent increase since 2009, when General Motors and Chrysler restructured in bankruptcy. Light-vehicle sales in the U.S. averaged 16.8 million from 2000 to 2007. The record, set in 2000, was 17.4 million. Buyers of new models have been undeterred by record recalls, mostly of older vehicles.
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