GM says U.S. Nov auto sales rate may be 10.8 mln image

General Motors Co. said U.S. auto sales in November may run at an annualized rate of 10.8 million vehicles, the third-highest total this year, in a sign of improving industry health.

“Things are solidly looking up,” Susan Docherty, GM’s U.S. sales chief, said today in a conference call with reporters. She said November sales for Detroit-based GM are on pace to rise 10 percent to 15 percent from a year earlier.

GM’s prediction for light-vehicle sales exceeded forecasts from two private researchers. Edmunds.com projected the annual selling rate for November will be 10.3 million vehicles, while J.D. Power & Associates gave an estimate of 10.2 million. The November 2008 rate was 10.1 million, J.D. Power said.

Manufacturers, suppliers and dealers use the annual sales rate to compare monthly totals by taking into account seasonal buying patterns. U.S. sales were 13.2 million in 2008, after averaging 16.8 million this decade through 2007. The lowest pace this year was 9.11 million, in February.

“The recovery has been slow, but is progressing,” Jeff Schuster, executive director of global forecasting for J.D. Power, said in a statement. “Transaction prices are at their highest levels in years, indicating a healthier close for the fourth quarter.”

February’s sales rate was the lowest since December 1981, as the recession scared off potential buyers. The industrywide slump helped drag GM and Chrysler Group LLC into government- aided bankruptcies earlier this year.

November Unit Sales

Edmunds.com projected November sales of 710,000 vehicles, and Westlake Village, California-based J.D. Power forecast 687,800. Those estimates would 4.9 percent and 7.9 percent fewer autos than a year earlier, based on figures from researcher Autodata Corp. of Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey.

The annual sales rate may rise because this month has two fewer selling days than last November.

Declines for the U.S. automakers will be 35 percent for Chrysler, 1.3 percent for GM and 0.3 percent for Ford Motor Co., according to Santa Monica, California-based Edmunds.com.

Japan’s three biggest automakers also will report fewer U.S. sales, with Toyota Motor Corp. down 4.4 percent, Honda Motor Co. off 9.1 percent and Nissan Motor Co. sliding 0.7 percent, Edmunds.com said. Seoul-based Hyundai Motor Co. will post a 26 percent increase, Edmunds.com projected.

Industry sales in November, traditionally a slow month, will fall 15 percent from October, Edmunds.com said.

“November is living up to its reputation for being one of the worst months of the year for car sales,” Jessica Caldwell, an Edmunds.com analyst, said in a statement. “But automakers have already launched holiday-season incentives in order to pick up the pace.”

Source: Bloomeberg