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Auto industry had a better ride in 2010

Auto industry had a better ride in 2010

Automotive industry had a better ride in 2010

Americans purchased about 11.5 million vehicles last year, an 11 percent increase from 2009/2010, according to preliminary reports from automakers Tuesday and analyst estimates.

Although a large improvement from the recession-depressed level of 2009, last year’s sales levels still were the second lowest since 1982, when Americans purchased 10.5 million vehicles. From 1999 through 2007, the auto industry sold 16 million to 17 million vehicles annually.

But the industry has rallied in recent months, and December continued that trend.

General Motors was the first of the major automakers to report Tuesday, saying that December sales rose 15.5 percent from a year earlier, to 223,932 vehicles, after factoring out the Pontiac, Hummer, Saturn and Saab brands it closed or sold as part of its bankruptcy reorganization during the summer of 2009.

Of its remaining brands, Buick, Cadillac and GMC posted double-digit gains, while Chevrolet was up 9.1 percent for the month. Including the discontinued lines, GM’s December sales rose 7.5 percent, to 224,185.

For the year, sales of GM’s core brands rose 21.3 percent, to 2.2 million vehicles. Including the discontinued lines, sales rose 6.3 percent.

GM said it believes overall sales this year will continue the upward trend, rising to more than 13 million vehicles. Other automakers are predicting industry sales of 12.5 million to 13.5 million this year.

Ford topped Toyota Motor to become the second-largest auto seller in the U.S., a position it last held in 2006. Ford captured about 16.7 percent of the market, up more than a full percentage point, according to George Magliano, an analyst at IHS Automotive. Toyota fell to about 15.1 percent, down more than a point and half, he said.

Audi of America, Hyundai Motor and its sister company, Kia Motors, and Subaru of America all set U.S. sales records and gained market share despite the slow pace of auto sales overall. Volkswagen of America had its best year since 2003.

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