DETROIT — All major automakers except Toyota reported strong U.S. sales increases in November as the auto industry's slow-motion recovery continued to gain traction.
Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Nissan, Hyundai and Honda all reported double-digit increases. Overall, according to Autodata Corp., U.S. sales last month rose 17 percent from November 2009, a month marked by consumer paralysis due to high unemployment.
Industry analysts say the solid November sales numbers, combined with a strong October, show that consumers who have kept their jobs through the economic downturn are now feeling confident enough to spend money and replace older vehicles.
Those who spent money last month bought crossovers like the Chevrolet Equinox and Hyundai Santa Fe. Midsize cars like the Ford Fusion and Hyundai Sonata also sold well.
The increased sales likely are due to a combination of rising confidence and delayed buying as people replace vehicles they have kept for longer than normal during a severe auto industry downturn, said Bruce Clark, senior vice president of Moody's Investors Service.
"There is a degree of pent-up demand that's being met gradually by people who have kept jobs and can go out and afford to do such things," Clark said. The sales are not as robust as historic highs from the early 2000s, but they are still a good sign for the industry, Clark said.
Incentives such as sweet lease deals and rebates also helped push up sales last month. Automakers raised incentive spending about 6 percent over October to an average of $2,712 per vehicle, said the auto website TrueCar.com.
Toyota sales dipped 3 percent, with the company blaming the drop on a 60 percent cut in sales to fleet buyers such as rental car companies. Toyota has been fighting a string of embarrassing safety problems.
GM reported increased showroom traffic toward the end of the month, an encouraging sign after its initial public stock offering on Nov. 18. Sales of GM's four remaining brands — Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac — rose 21 percent compared with the same brands last November.
Ford's numbers were fueled by truck sales that went up 34 percent.
Chrysler reported its eighth-straight month of year-over-year sales increases, driven largely by the Jeep and Ram brands. The newly redesigned Jeep Grand Cherokee continued to sell well, more than tripling from November of last year.
Moody's is predicting U.S. sales this year of 11.5 million cars and trucks, still far short of the 2000 peak of 17 million.