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How The Auto Sector Did In December Amid Trump Twitter Rants, A Shorter Selling Period And Incentives

How The Auto Sector Did In December Amid Trump Twitter Rants, A Shorter Selling Period And Incentives

Automakers boasted strong performances in December amid strong incentives and firm demand for trucks. Forecasts published by suggest total vehicle sales in the United States are expected to come in at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 17.7 million units in December, a 18.5 percent increase from November, although a 0.5 percent drop from the year-ago period.

The year 2016 had one fewer selling day than 2015. Quoting estimates by J.D. Power, the Wall Street Journal said December light vehicle sales may have dropped 2.2 percent, although rising 1.4 percent on a selling-days adjusted basis.

Coming Off A Strong November

These figures come on top of a strong November, when all major automakers, with the exception of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (NYSE: FCAU), reported year-over-year sales growth.

The Big 3

General Motors Company (NYSE: GM) said it sold 319,108 vehicles in December, up 10 percent year-over-year. The performance was made possible due to strong retail sales gains at Chevrolet, according to the company. Retail sales, which refer to sales made to individual customers, rose 3 percent to 249,983 vehicles.

The company said its total U.S. market share rose 1.5 points to 18.8 percent. For 2016, the company's retail sales rose 2 percent.

Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) saw its U.S. sales rise 0.3 percent to 239,854 vehicles, with retail sales rising 5 percent. Even as Ford brand sales fell 0.6 percent, Lincoln luxury brand sales rose 17.8 percent. For 2016, the company sold 2,614,697 vehicles, marking its best performance in 10 years.

Meanwhile, Fiat Chrysler reported a 10 percent decline in U.S. sales to 192,519 vehicles. The company's fleet sales and retail sales were down 3.4 percent and 2 percent, respectively. The sales numbers for the whole of 2016 showed nearly flat performance for the year.

Foreign Automakers, Too, Make Hay

Toyota Motor Corp (ADR) (NYSE: TM) said it sold 243,229 vehicles in December, a 2 percent year-over-year growth. The Toyota division posted sales gains of 2.6 percent on volume basis and 6.4 percent on daily sales rate basis. Lexus sales fell 0.5 percent on a volume basis but rose 3.2 percent on a DSR basis.

For the year, the Japanese automaker's sales fell 2 percent to 2,449,630 vehicles.

Nissan Motor Co Ltd (ADR) (OTC: NSANY)'s total December sales rose 9.7 percent, with Nissan division sales rising 8.3 percent and Infiniti sales climbing 20.6 percent. The company reported a 5.4 percent in sales for the calendar year 2016.

Honda Motor Co Ltd (ADR) (NYSE: HMC) said its December sales rose 6.4 percent to 160,477, with a 21.8 percent jump in truck sale offsetting a 0.4 percent drop in car sales.

Honda car and truck sales rose 0.2 percent and 23.4 percent, respectively, and Acura truck sales climbed 12.9 percent. Acura car sales fell 8.6 percent.

For the year, sales increased 3.2 percent.

Trump Spooks Automakers

Meanwhile, Ford announced its pulling the plug on a proposed car factory in Mexico is seen as a corollary of the stance of President-elect Donald Trump. Ford had announced in April 2016 its plan to build the factory in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, at an estimated cost of $1.6 billion. Instead, Ford said it would invest $700 million to expand its Flat Rock, Michigan, factory, which would make new electric, hybrid and autonomous vehicles.

General Motors was also on the receiving end of Trump's twitter rants, with the president-elect threatening that the company may have to pay a big border tax on the Chevy Cruze models made in Mexico. General Motors countered by arguing that the Mexican-made vehicles do not come into the United States but were used to serve its global customers.

Even as December numbers continue to pour in, analysts believe 2017 could be another record year of sales. However, the sales pace could slow in the coming months amid Trump's proposed protectionists policies and as companies wean buyers away from heavy incentives.


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