Auto sales support view U.S. economy is recovering

01/06/2011 3:27 pm EST

Focus: STOCKS

Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

Look, Ma, no smoke and mirrors. Or not much anyway.

That’s the best thing about the 11% growth in sales reported by automakers in the United States for December 2010 from December 2009.  The seasonally adjusted annualized sales rate of 12.5 million didn’t depend on a government subsidy such as “Cash for clunkers” or even on much help from automakers’ own incentive programs.

Car sales for the month actually reflect real consumer demand. Imagine that.

For the year just ended automakers sold 11.6 million vehicles, an 11% increase from the 10.4 million sold in 2009. Both Ford and General Motors raised their sales forecasts for 2011 to 13.5 million vehicles.

Those two companies were indeed the biggest beneficiaries of the pickup in December sales. For the month General Motors saw sales climb by 8.5% from December 2009 and Ford saw sales grow by 6.8%. General Motors retained a leading 19.6% share of the U.S. market and Ford jumped over Toyota to take the No. 2 slot with a 16.6% share. Toyota, which just can’t put the damage from last year’s huge recalls behind it, saw sales drop by 5.5% and its market share fall to 15.5%.

For the full year General Motors saw a 6.7% climb in sales and Ford’s sales grew by 15.2%.

As with the recent good news on shopping during the holiday season, the auto sales figures are good news for more than just the auto industry. A pickup in auto sales ripples through the entire U.S. economy, producing profits and jobs at all the way down the auto supply chain.

The Detroit auto show runs from January 10 to 23 this year. I’d look for new product introductions to keep the momentum going in the sector.

And speaking of new models, General Motors reported that it sold 326 of its new plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt in December. Nissan sold 19 of its all-electric Leaf in the month.

Related Articles on STOCKS