Tag Archive | "auto sales"

2012! – It’s All About You

I just got home after visiting with one of our dealer groups. Wow, what enthusiasm and excitement their salespeople and managers have, and it shows in their results.

These guys are not only holding their own as business moves back to normal, they had their very best year ever in 2011. You have to love pure ambition, especially when it’s combined with so much enthusiasm and the great skills they’ve worked so hard to develop.

It’s all about YOU!

I’ve been there, done that, as the salesperson who didn’t get enough training and got stuck in the 6-8-10 car rut, where I learned that it wasn’t my fault. How did I learn that?

Easy, I had the negative help from the huddle and even the negative things our managers said out loud about us being in a tough market, with a tough product to sell in tough times. Plus we spent more time at work explaining why we couldn’t sell than we spent in learning how to sell or doing what it takes to sell.

If you’re living your life in sales in that last paragraph – you’ll either pinch yourself and wake up, or you’ll keep the poor-me blame-game going about how life is so tough for you in sales. But…

  • Can you sell more if you just came to work and worked all day? Yes
  • Can you sell more if you give more people demos? Yes
  • Can you sell more if you learn to handle price and close the sale? Yes
  • Can you follow up and sell more? Yes
  • Can you prospect and sell more? Yes
  • Can you do a better job on phone and Internet leads and sell more? Yes

I meet a lot of salespeople who say they could sell more “if”…

I met a salesperson in Florida who, a year earlier, couldn’t speak English. He started selling cars in a market that was down 50 percent. He learned English, and was on track to hit $100,000 his first year selling cars.

Did the word “tough” apply to his possibilities in sales? Of course! But he didn’t let anything affect his attitude, his goal or his level of success. He just did what everyone else tried to tell him couldn’t be done. I guess it’s a great thing he didn’t understand English in the beginning. He got successful before the lazy salespeople could make him understand success wasn’t possible.

That’s like the blind guy we talk about. He made $137,000 his first year. His disadvantage was not seeing. His advantage was not being able to pre-qualify people.

When Success Magazine asked him how he sold so many cars, he said, “I don’t know, but I bumped into four buyers my first day at work.”

Business is coming back, and you have a real opportunity to make 2012 not just your best year, but you have the chance to turn pro in sales, and that change will stick with you forever.

You don’t have to get from 10 to 30 tomorrow, but make a commitment to sell three more every month by the end of the second quarter. Do that four times and in one year you’ll have gone from 10 to 22 and more than tripled your income.

Do it for you and your family because you can, not because you have to.

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Automakers Start Year with Strong Sales

Car sales zoomed ahead in January, with many automakers reporting solid sales at the start of a year expected to show a steady gain in vehicle purchases.

Chrysler, now privately held and majority owned by Italy’s Fiat, was the notable standout for the month. It posted a 44 percent rise in U.S. auto sales, led by gains for its Jeep brand, while its larger domestic rival General Motors lost ground in a month marked by modest growth, according to msnbc.com.

Chrysler’s sales blew past some analysts’ expectations of a 35 percent increase, demonstrating the remarkable comeback of the smallest U.S. automaker nearly three years after its taxpayer-funded bankruptcy restructuring. It also reported its first full-year profit since 1997.

GM, the largest U.S. automaker, reported a 6 percent drop in U.S. auto sales for the month, while Ford posted sales that were 7 percent higher, spurred by a 60 percent jump in sales of the Focus small car.

Japan’s Toyota said its January sales in the U.S. rose 7.5 percent as momentum from the fourth quarter of last year picked up speed.

U.S. auto sales, an early indication of consumer demand each month, are expected to show an overall rise of 6 percent in January. Older cars, which now average a record 11 years old, are helping to boost new car sales as people trade them in after delaying purchases during the economic downturn.

As drivers replace their aging cars, new car sales are expected to grow through at least the start of 2012. At the same time, used vehicle prices have jumped compared to new car prices, which could drive car buyers to purchase a new car over a used one. Ford economist Jenny Lin said low interest rates as well as stable gasoline prices are also supporting vehicle sales.

So far, the annualized sales rate for January, traditionally a tepid month for auto sales, is tracking at 13.8 million vehicles, JP Morgan analyst Himanshu Patel said in a research note. This surpasses the 13.5 million sales rate that analysts had expected and is slightly higher than the nearly 13.6 million sales rate reached in December.

GM was expected to show a decline in sales compared to last January, when the automaker offered consumer incentives to jump-start sales. It has since pulled back from this approach.

“The old days of going blindly after market share are over, and most manufacturers are now concentrating on what really matters, which is profitability,” said Jesse Toprak, TrueCar.com analyst.

GM sales totaled 167,962 vehicles in January. The carmaker predicted that light vehicle sales in 2012 would range from 13.5 million to 14 million.

Some analysts had expected GM to report a 9 percent drop.

“In 2012, we will strengthen our position with more new products, an even better dealership experience and reinforce the disciplined ‘go to market’ strategy that helped us grow profitably in the United States in 2011,” GM’s U.S. sales chief Don Johnson said in a statement.

Volkswagen and Nissan reported sales gains for January. VW sales rose 48 percent to 27,209 vehicles, buoyed by the introduction of its Passat sedan. It was the German automaker’s best sales month in decades. Nissan’s U.S. sales rose 10.4 percent to 79,313.

During a call with reporters, Jonathan Browning, chief executive of VW in America, said U.S. consumer confidence was growing, but not a swift rate.

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Chrysler, Koreans Propel U.S. Auto Sales in January; Honda Posts Gain

Chrysler Group LLC, Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. led gains in January U.S. auto sales, while Honda Motor Co. increased deliveries for the first time since April as consumers replaced aging vehicles.

Chrysler’s U.S. sales increase of 44 percent surpassed eight analysts’ average estimate for a 32-percent sales gain. Affiliates Hyundai and Kia, based in Seoul, sold a combined 78,211 vehicles in January, a 20 percent increase. Honda boosted deliveries 8.8 percent, topping six analysts’ estimates for a 1.2 percent decline, according to Bloomberg.

Toyota Motor Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. also reported gains from a year earlier, and General Motors Co. posted a smaller decline than analysts estimated. The light- vehicle seasonally adjusted annualized rate was 14.2 million, the fastest since the “cash for clunkers” government incentive program in August 2009. The average estimate of 14 analysts for a 13.4 million rate, up from 12.7 million a year earlier.

“Some people are starting to feel comfortable enough in the economy that they are willing to buy a car,” said Jim Hall, principal of 2953 Analytics Inc., an automotive consulting firm in Birmingham, Michigan. “Others are saying, ‘I’ve got to replace this old car because it’s nickel and diming me to death.’”

With the average age of U.S. cars and trucks rising to a record 10.8 years, according to R.L. Polk & Co., analysts see pent-up demand bolstering sales in January and boosting deliveries to a third straight annual gain, the longest streak since U.S. sales peaked in 2000. An improving job market and available credit may drive up full-year sales more than 6 percent to 13.6 million, the average of 18 analysts’ estimates.

Chrysler, the automaker majority owned by Fiat SpA, sold 101,149 cars and light trucks last month, up from 70,118 a year earlier, the Auburn Hills, Michigan-based company said in a news release. Hyundai and Kia topped the 18 percent sales gain that was the average estimate of four analysts.

Honda, Japan’s third-largest automaker, snapped an eight- month streak of sales declines from a year earlier, boosting deliveries by 8.8 percent, according to an e-mailed statement. The Tokyo-based company was expected to report a 1.2 percent decline, the average of six analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Sales were buoyed by a 50 percent increase in deliveries of Civic compact cars.

GM’s deliveries fell 6.1 percent to 167,962, the Detroit- based automaker said. That beat the 7.3 percent decline estimated by eight analysts. Buyers paid about $30,400 per GM vehicle in January, up about $1,000 from a year earlier, Jim Cain, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail.

GM incentive spending slid by about $700 per vehicle, Cain said. The automaker outspent the industry average by 42 percent in January 2011, according to Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey-based Autodata.

“When the incentives are down and sales are up, it clearly indicates the product is selling itself,” Jesse Toprak, an analyst at Santa Monica, California-based auto-pricing researcher TrueCar.com, said in a phone interview.

“That’s the way it’s supposed to happen in a healthy market environment. The underlying consumer demand continues to improve and prospects for the economy are looking better now than a year ago.”

Ford’s sales of light vehicles increased 7.3 percent to 136,294 in January from 126,981 a year earlier, the automaker said today. The average estimate of eight analysts’ surveyed by Bloomberg was for a 7.9 percent rise.

Sales of Ford’s Focus compact car rose 60 percent to 14,400, while its Fiesta subcompact and Fusion family sedan fell. The Escape small sport-utility vehicle rose 24 percent to 17,259 models, Ford said.

GM rose 1.5 percent to $24.37 at the close in New York. Ford fell 0.7 percent to $12.33.

Nissan’s January sales increased 10 percent to 79,313 cars and trucks, topping the 7.6 percent average estimate of six analysts.

Toyota sales rose 7.5 percent last month to 124,540 cars and light trucks. Asia’s largest automaker exceeded the average of six analysts’ estimates for a 7 percent increase. The gain was led by a 56 percent jump in sales of Camry sedans.

“We’ve sold down to the asphalt for a number of months at my Toyota store,” Gordon Stewart, who also owns four Chevrolet dealerships and has outlets in four states, said in a phone interview. “Given the blowout sales we had in December, we lowered our expectations for January. But we still managed to eke out of good month in January and that’s very promising.”

At Chrysler, models such as the 200 sedan, its top-selling car last year, and the Dodge Durango SUV first arrived at dealerships a year ago. Deliveries of the 200 surged to 7,007 in January from 788 a year ago and Durango more than doubled to 3,021 from 1,199.

Jeep brand sales climbed 37 percent to 31,710 led by the Grand Cherokee and Wrangler SUVs. Ram sales rose 47 percent to 17,909.

“We’re looking at a completely revamped lineup from Chrysler that’s still kicking in, with a lot of models coming up on their first full year of production,” Alec Gutierrez, an analyst for Kelley Blue Book, said in a phone interview before results were disclosed. “A year ago, Chrysler didn’t quite have the product they needed to drive sales.”

Chrysler earned $225 million in net income in the fourth quarter, the company said earlier today, exceeding the $186 million average of four analysts’ estimates. Net income may rise to about $1.5 billion in 2012 as global revenue climbs 18 percent to $65 billion, the U.S. company said. It emerged from a government-financed bankruptcy in 2009 under Fiat management.

Volkswagen AG , which is targeting U.S. sales growth of more than 10 percent this year, increased combined U.S. sales of its Volkswagen and Audi brands by 39 percent last month from a year earlier. The average of three analysts’ estimates was for a 27 percent gain.

Volkswagen plans to sell more than 500,000 cars in the U.S. this year as part of the Wolfsburg, Germany-based automaker’s goal to become the world’s biggest automaker by 2018.

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Chrysler Sales Up 45 Percent; GM Sales Up 7 Percent; Ford Up 13 Percent

November shaped up to be a strong month for U.S. auto sales with all major automakers except Honda Motor Co. reporting better results than a year ago.

Honda’s sales of 83,925 were down 6 percent from a year ago, largely on inventory woes due to flooding in Thailand.

Chrysler Group LLC reported a whopping 45 percent sales increase in November in the first results of what is expected to be one of strongest months of the year for U.S. vehicle sales, reported The Detroit News.

Conversely, General Motors Co. only saw sales grow 7 percent compared with a year ago.

Ford Motor Co. sits in the middle with total sales of 166,865, up 13 percent from 2010 results.

Toyota Motor Corp. said its sales were up 6.7 percent in November on volume of 137,960 units.

Chrysler, the biggest gainer for the month, sold 107,172 vehicles in November, the automaker’s sixth consecutive month of best year-over-year sales this year.

“With sales up 45 percent, November was another huge month for the Chrysler Group and our highest year-over-year sales gain of 2011,” said Reid Bigland, head of U.S. sales.

Strong sellers for the Auburn Hills automaker included the Chrysler 300 and 200 sedans, which contributed to the Chrysler brand’s 92 percent hike over last year and best November since 2008. Also boosting sales were the Dodge Charger, Avenger and Durango. The Fiat 500 notched 1,618 sales for the month.

GM reported total sales of 180,402, largely on a 14 percent drop in fleet sales. The automaker said retail sales were up 15 percent. Chrysler reported a 51 percent increase in retail sales.

“We are seeing a broad spectrum of customers return to the market,” said Don Johnson, vice president, U.S. Sales Operations. “Truck sales showed a very solid increase, as we expected, but the momentum building behind our most fuel-efficient vehicles was even stronger.”

Edmunds.com Senior Analyst Jessica Caldwell said, “For GM, ’tis the season for truck sales, which is great for GM’s bottom line.”

Trucks carried the month with a 25 percent increase in sales while total passenger car sales were only up 1 percent and crossovers fell 9 percent.

Small cars fueled GM gains with the new Chevrolet Sonic and the popular Chevrolet Cruze up 54 percent from last year.

“The Chevrolet Sonic is off to a good start, but the Sonic could be hurting Cruze sales, said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst with Edmunds.com.At Ford, sales of the midsize Fusion outsold the Fiesta and Focus combined. The Escape and Explorer remain strong but the top-seller, by far, remains the F-150 full-size pickup.

“With gasoline prices continuing to track higher than last year, consumers continue to value fuel economy — no matter what size or kind of vehicle best meets their needs,” said Ken Czubay, Ford’s U.S. sales chief. “Most Ford products deliver best-in-class fuel economy and provide customers an opportunity to choose what best works for them — EcoBoost technology or electrified vehicles.”

Ford announced plans to increase production by 3 percent in the first quarter of 2012, to 675,000 vehicles, to meet continued demand. That compares with 674,000 vehicles in the fourth quarter of 2011, which was already 14,000 more than previous forecasts.

“The industry sales rate has exceeded 13 million in each of the last three months,” said Czubay. “This suggests the current momentum is not an aberration. We believe replacement demand will continue to support stronger levels in 2012, and Ford is ready to meet that demand with high-quality, fuel-efficient cars, utilities and trucks.”

Industry estimates project the month could show a 13.8 million annualized sales pace.

Honda’s production issues continue to plague the automaker.

The Honda Division saw a sales fall off of 6 percent and the luxury Acura Division was down by 7.5 percent. The CR-V and Accord both lost sales compared with a year ago.

“The impact of the Thailand flooding on our North American production levels continued to be felt in November,” said John Mendel, American Honda executive vice president of sales. “We’re looking forward to closing the year on a strong note as production recovers and the all-new CR-V goes on sale this month.”

Toyota is showing signs of recovery.

“Our sales performance this month is a testament to the strength of our new products. Camry’s momentum continued in November, with sales up 8 percent from last year. Camry Hybrid, which arrived in dealerships last month, has been very well-received by customers and we expect it to play a much larger role than in past years,” said Bob Carter, group vice president and general manager of the Toyota Division in the United States. “As the automotive retail market continues to improve, we believe we’re in an excellent position. In addition to the four new models we have already introduced this year, we’ll benefit from the biggest influx of new and updated products in our history during 2012.”

Nissan Motor Co. said it sold 85,182 vehicles last month, up 19 percent from a year ago.

The Nissan Division had a record November with 76,754 sales – up more than 21 percent – and best-ever results for the small Versa and Rogue while luxury brand Infiniti was only up 3 percent for the month.

“Strong gains across our lineup extended Nissan’s record-breaking October into our best-ever November,” said Al Castignetti, vice president and general manager of Nissan sales for North America.

“We expect to finish 2011 on a high note with vehicles like Altima, Versa, Sentra and Rogue leading Nissan to a strong close in December and into an even better 2012.”

“Nissan, which rebounded quickly from the Japanese earthquake disaster, gained further momentum in November with strength across the board from cars to trucks,” said Krebs. “Nissan incentives are highest of the Big Three Japanese, as the company is attempting to take advantage of the slower recovery of competitors Honda and Toyota. Critics generally do not like the Versa sedan but it has been a hit with consumers, who are apparently drawn in by the $10,990 starting price.”

Volkswagen AG also saw strong growth with 28,412 units sold in November 2011, up almost 41 percent from a year ago.

Leading the charge are the new Passat, built in Chattanooga, which in two months has sold more than it did in all of 2010.

“November has been a tremendous month for Volkswagen,” said Jonathan Browning, president and CEO, Volkswagen Group of America.

“With the 2012 Passat named Motor Trend’s Car of the Year, anticipated improvements in J.D. Power’s Sales Satisfaction Index and once again double-digit sales growth, the proof points of German Engineering and our commitment to the U.S. market are all starting to come together.”

Hyundai Motor Co. continues to grow with 49,610 vehicles sold in November, up 22 percent over last year’s record pace.

“The Thanksgiving Holiday weekend, including ‘Black Friday,’ proved to be a very strong selling period and helped us break our all-time November sales record,” said Dave Zuchowski, Hyundai Motor America’s executive vice president of national sales. “With vehicle availability at the highest levels for the year, and with positive demand signals and improving consumer confidence, Hyundai is positioned for a very strong December finish to this record-breaking year.”

Chief Executive John Krafcik said, “While our 35 days-supply level today is low by most standards, it’s the best we’ve seen at the start of a month for some time. Accent, Elantra and Veloster remain in short supply, but healthy dealer stocks on all other Hyundai models should allow consumers a great opportunity to find just the car they’re looking for in December.”

Kia Motors Corp. reported a record month with 37,007 vehicles sold, up 39 percent from a year ago. It marks the 15th straight monthly sales record for the Korean automaker.

“Kia’s growth has far outpaced the industry all year and the brand’s design-led transformation has raised awareness for the brand and attracted new customers to our showrooms to experience our diverse lineup that offers world-class style, performance, technology and safety features,” said Byung Mo Ahn, CEO of Kia Motors America.

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Toyota Gains as U.S. Auto Sales Accelerate

Toyota Motor Corp., posting its first monthly sales increase since April, joined Chrysler Group LLC and Nissan Motor Co. in topping analysts’ estimates, leading to the best U.S. light-vehicle sales pace in more than two years.

Toyota deliveries rose 6.7 percent in November to 137,960 cars and light trucks, the Toyota City, Japan-based automaker said in a statement. Chrysler sales soared 45 percent to 107,172 and Nissan increased 19 percent to 85,182. Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co., boosted by demand for F-Series and Silverado pickups, also posted gains.

Four of the six largest automakers by U.S. sales beat expectations, boosting industry sales to a 13.6 million seasonally adjusted annualized rate, according to Autodata Corp. The pace exceeded the 13.4 million average estimate of 14 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg and is the best month since sales were helped by “cash for clunkers” in August 2009.

“Consumers have been waiting for this,” Jessica Caldwell, an analyst for the researcher Edmunds.com, said today in a phone interview. “Cars are getting old, and people are getting to the point where they need to replace them. There’s recession fatigue and people want to buy. We’re getting tired of being in this saving pattern.”

Sales of Toyota’s Prius hybrid rose 49 percent to 15,208, while deliveries of its Camry sedan climbed 13 percent to 23,440. The automaker exceeded five analysts’ average estimate for a 5 percent increase in November deliveries.

Chrysler, the automaker controlled by Fiat SpA, topped the 37 percent gain predicted by eight analysts as its Jeep brand sales rose 50 percent. Nissan deliveries exceeded five analysts’ average estimate for a 12 percent rise.

Ford sales rose 13 percent, beating estimates for a 10 percent increase, while GM’s gain of 6.9 percent missed estimates for a 7.4 percent gain, both the average of eight estimates. Ford’s F-Series pickup deliveries climbed 24 percent and GM’s Silverado sales increased 34 percent.

“You’re seeing some elements of housing stabilize, the commercial sector is showing a bit of growth, gas prices have moderated and there’s some support on those vehicles from an incentive standpoint,” Paul Ballew, chief economist for Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co., said in a phone interview.

Ford plans to build 675,000 cars and trucks in 2012’s first quarter, a 3 percent increase from the year-earlier period, according to a company statement. Ford’s sport-utility vehicle sales climbed 29 percent, while car deliveries fell 8.8 percent, with the Focus declining for a fifth-consecutive month.

“We’re moving away from cars because we are finding crossovers that exceed our miles per gallon expectations,” Rebecca Lindland, an analyst with researcher IHS Automotive, said in a phone interview. “We’ve discovered we don’t have to compromise on space to get fuel economy. The Explorer and Escape are perfect examples.”

Sales for Honda Motor Co., Japan’s third-largest automaker, missed estimates, dropping 6.4 percent to 83,925 in November, the company said in a statement on its website. The automaker cited reduced production at North American plants resulting from floods in Thailand that disrupted parts supply. Analysts expected Tokyo-based Honda to report a 2.6 percent increase, the average of five estimates.

Toyota’s inventories are recovering from Thailand’s floods and the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Bob Carter, vice president of U.S. sales, said today in a conference call.

“We’re confident our volumes and our share will recover throughout 2012,” Carter said.

Hyundai Motor Co., South Korea’s largest automaker, and its affiliate Kia Motors Corp., combined to sell 29 percent more vehicles than a year earlier, beating three analysts’ average estimate for a 24 percent increase. Kia’s Optima sedan sales surged more than sixfold to 9,533.

Consumers spent a record $52.4 billion during the holiday weekend, excluding autos, according to the National Retail Federation. Consumer confidence surged in November by the most in more than eight years, and the portion of consumers planning to buy a new vehicle within six months climbed to the highest since April, data from The Conference Board showed Nov. 29.

“We’re encouraged by the industry’s recent performance and the developments that we’ve seen in the economy,” Don Johnson, vice president of U.S. sales, said on a conference call. The Conference Board’s figures “drives even more support for our belief in the continued growing of the U.S. economy next year.”

GM’s inventory of full-size pickups rose on a selling-day basis to 105 days as of Nov. 30, from 104 days at the end of October, the Detroit-based automaker said today in a statement. Full-size truck supply was 202,720 at the end of November, from 207,596 as of Oct. 31.

Ford’s sales accelerated through the end of the month, culminating with the best results the day after Thanksgiving, which retailers call “Black Friday,” said Ken Czubay, Ford’s U.S. sales chief.

“The dealers enjoyed the same uplift that the other merchants enjoyed,” Czubay said today on a conference call.

GM fell 1.6 percent to $20.96 at the close in New York. Ford fell less than 0.1 percent to $10.59.

Chrysler’s deliveries of its 200 midsize sedan increased to 8,065 in November, almost six times the year-earlier sales of the Sebring model that it replaced, the company said in a statement. Sales of Nissan’s Rogue compact SUV rose 27 percent to 10,845, according to an e-mailed statement. Volkswagen AG’s U.S. sales unit said deliveries of its VW brand surged 41 percent to 28,412, boosted by demand for its Passat sedan.

U.S. light-vehicle sales exceeded a 13 million annualized rate for the third consecutive month as Toyota and Honda inventories recover from Japan’s tsunami in March, which disrupted auto-parts supply and vehicle output. The sales pace failed to exceed 12.2 million in the prior four months.

Industrywide car inventory rebounded to 53 days supply at the beginning of November, from 43 days a month earlier, according to LMC Automotive. That’s the biggest sequential increase since February, said Jeff Schuster, a Troy, Michigan- based analyst.

“It looks like the close of the month was definitely a strong one and it’s setting up a positive story for the industry as the year closes,” Schuster said today in a phone interview.

The U.S. averaged annual sales of 16.8 million vehicles from 2000 to 2007, according to Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey-based Autodata. Deliveries may rise about 9.5 percent to 12.7 million cars and light trucks this year, the average of 18 analysts’ estimates in a Bloomberg survey in August.

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Dealerships Getting More Traffic

Car dealers are getting a surprise end-of-the-year bonus: More Americans are replacing old cars and trucks, enlivening a normally sleepy time for auto sales and putting November on track to be the industry’s strongest month of the year.

Dealers and analysts say people are finally getting rid of cars and trucks they’ve held onto for more than a decade. That demand, plus attractive lease deals, an ample supply of Japanese models and promotions on remaining 2011 models have drawn buyers to showrooms in large numbers in November, according to The Detroit News.

“We’re seeing the most showroom traffic that we’ve seen all year,” said Ed Williamson, a partner in two Miami-area GM Buick-Cadillac-GMC dealerships.

The spike in activity comes after months of sputtering sales. Consumers have been reluctant to take on major debt such as car payments because of the uncertain job market. Unemployment has been around 9 percent for more than two years with no sign of significant improvement.

Sales also suffered when Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. ran short of models during the summer and early fall because of factory disruptions caused by the earthquake in Japan and flooding in Thailand.

Now supplies are starting to return to normal, and customers have a better selection.

So far this year, sales have been better than 2010, an annual rate of 12.6 million compared with 11.5 million, but that’s still far short of the 2005 peak of 17 million.

Recent sales have been so strong that General Motors’ top sales executive predicts that November figures will hit an annual rate of around 13.8 million light vehicles in the U.S. That’s a big step up from last November, when the auto industry was just starting to recover from the economic meltdown. Back then, the sales rate was only 12.3 million.

After years of holding off on purchases, people are tiring of their old cars and trucks. Lease deals also are drawing people into showrooms, Toprak said. Low interest rates and strong resale values after leases have ended help car companies offer deals.

Also, dealers are clearing out the remaining 2011 models. And by this time of year, automakers normally offer good discounts to get them sold.

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