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U.S. car sales reach 5-year high in 2012

7 automakers saw record numbers.

By Clifford Atiyeh Jan 4, 2013 11:22AM
Car sales in the U.S. reached a five-year high, and seven automakers posted all-time records in 2012, signaling a steady market that has finally recovered from the recession.

Total sales of light-duty vehicles reached 14.4 million units, a 13.4 percent jump over 2011, according to WardsAuto. It was the industry's best year since 2007, when 16.1 million cars were sold, and far better than the 10.4 million sold during the depths of the recession in 2009.

Ford, including Lincoln, was the best-selling brand in 2012, with more than 2.1 million cars sold. Toyota, including Lexus and Scion, was the only other automaker to eclipse the 2-million mark, at 2.08 million. General Motors ranked third at 1.92 million, and Chrylser Group, including Fiat, was fourth at 1.65 million. Honda/Acura and Nissan/Infiniti tallied 1.42 million and 1.14 million cars, respectively.

Automakers broke records left and right. Audi reported 24 months of consecutive sales increases with 139,000 cars, its best-ever year and a 68 percent jump over 2009. Hyundai posted a record 703,000 cars along with a record 5 percent market share; Kia marked 18 years of annual increases in sales. Mercedes-Benz (274,000) and Porsche (35,000) both reported record U.S. sales, as did MINI (66,000) and Subaru (336,000), which saw a 26 percent jump from 2011.

Mitsubishi and Suzuki were the only automakers to post year-over-year declines, at 27 percent and 5 percent, respectively. Suzuki is exiting the U.S. market.

The Big Three claimed a 44.6 percent market share, although GM's 18 percent was its lowest on record, according to WardsAuto. Despite a partial stock sale in December, the U.S. Treasury still owns 19 percent of GM and stands to lose billions when it sells the remainder in the next 15 months. Asian brands represented 45.8 percent of the U.S. market.

Toyota continued its streak as the No. 1 foreign brand in the U.S., despite another year full of quality and legal problems. In 2012, Toyota issued the largest industry recall in 16 years, was fined a fourth time by the U.S. for issuing another recall too late and was just whacked with a $1.1 billion settlement to cover its disastrous recalls from 2009 and 2010.

With foreign automakers expected to boost North American car production in 2013 and beyond, the U.S. market could reach -- and possibly, surpass -- 2005's record sales of nearly 17 million.

More: See our detailed roundup of winners and losers from 2012

[Source: WardsAuto, the manufacturers; Image: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni via MSN]

Jan 4, 2013 2:21PM
Unemployment is still extremely high, we are staring down the barrel of a financial meltdown. GM has so many vehicles on overstock they rolled out the new Sierra and Silverado - 2014 models in december to jump start sales. Sure people are buying or leasing and repo companies are having a financial windfall too. Car loans are up to 72, 84 and 96 months! Really?  Our economy is a mess, costs are way up, groceries, gas utilities. Everyone seems to be getting price increases but the working class. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. There is no middle class. I saw a Nissan for $40,000 stocker price? A Nissan? A truck for $63000. People wake up these are housing payments. Start to live within your means. By the 2nd quarter of 2013 all these corporations will be crying how flay the economy is - which it is but they can;t have it both ways.
Jan 4, 2013 12:55PM
It amazes me how some can claim that the recession is over when unemployment is still hanging at 8% (so the govt. claims, we all know it's closer to 12% or more because millions have stopped trying to find work and are no longer getting benefits). I guess the new "OK" is having millions out of work. "The private sector is doing fine" right?
  Everything is going up except for salaries, been to the grocery store lately?? The state of the Union is horrible yet the media keeps blowing government forced sunshine up our butts to try and make us believe that "all is well" under this financial disaster of a president. I hope that in four more years, I can say that I was wrong and everyone that voted for him was right!! I really do.
  Retail sales for the holidays were down, the stock market is shaky at best, taxes are going up (even though both candidates said they were not going to be), people are working for less money than they were four years ago, so who is buying all of these cars?? It just doesn't seem realistic that the numbers could be "record breaking".
  Can't wait to hear Obummer's State of the Union speech and listen to more of his lies. What is really scary is that apparently more than half of Americans will be watching him with a boner, and drool running down their chins, eating up his lies and patting themselves on the back for voting him in.

Jan 4, 2013 2:31PM
I sell cars and i havent broke the bank , in fact my w2 has gone down four years in a row and going on five here shortly . In my area unemployment is 11.5% let me know where the sales are so i can move there. record numbers my foot .
Jan 4, 2013 2:01PM

They didn`t mention that Mercedes can`t make cars fast enough.Lexis and Porshe also

are flying off the lots.We`re becoming a 2 class society.

Jan 4, 2013 1:45PM
This will be followed by a story on how auto sales are sluggish!  I've been watching this same theme for over a year now.  My husband is in new car sales - he had his worst year this past year.  Not nearly as many vehicles sold.  Generally the time after Christmas through New Years is crazy busy - they only sold a hand full of vehicles.  Not normal at all!  So I don't buy this story about how great auto sales are!
Jan 4, 2013 2:59PM
The quality and recalls have brought down many of car companies, lets see how Toyota gets through it, about time a US company is number one again  , keep it up Ford  ,  And  GM  and Chyrsler  good job
These record car sales won't last. People are overextending themselves with very long and expensive car payments. As soon as these people load  up their credit the sales will drop  like a rock and  the reposesions will  go up. The car companies need to make more low priced cars and not these 40, 50, and 60 thousand models that people can't really afford. Unfortunately the 1% have all the money and there really don't care about car prices, they allways buy what  they want regardless of price.
Wonder what they will be saying about car sales 12 months  from now. I bet it won't be very rosy...for car makers or us in 2013.
Jan 4, 2013 2:14PM

Instead of giving all those bonuses to their employees, I worked there for 15yrs and they are not over

worked give that money back to the tax payers. I know for a fact that those people that feel liked they sacrificed an arm aren't going to leave. Take care of the retired workers that actually built that company. When they show a vehicle coming off the line you see twenty workers milling around. You see the foreign plants have one or two people. I found out what life was like after GM, very hard work.

Jan 4, 2013 3:17PM

Recovery?  Just read an article about how NYC lost thousands of cars during Sandy and that it would stimulate the auto industry...interesting.

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