Holiday Weekend Gives A Boost To Auto Sales

The Associated Press

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The holiday weekend was good to U.S. automakers, as sales reports indicate the auto industry is on track to beat strong sales numbers from a year ago.

Chrysler's U.S. sales rose a surprising 16 percent in November, while General Motors posted a 14 percent gain. Toyota sales rose 10 percent, and Ford notched a 7 percent increase.

"Industry sales in November picked up after Thanksgiving contributing to the best sales pace of the year," said Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president and general manager.

One of the month's stars was the all-new Jeep Cherokee small crossover SUV, which notched the rare achievement of sales of more than 10,000 in its first full month on the market.

"That is a big number," said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of auto sales forecasting for LMC Automotive, an industry consulting firm.

Overall, Chrysler sold just over 142,000 vehicles last month for its best November in six years, up from nearly 123,000 a year ago. Sales of Jeeps rose 30 percent, and the brand had its best November ever.

With the success of the Cherokee, Chrysler took advantage of a shift in the market toward smaller SUVs.

Erich Merkle, Ford's top sales analyst, said small crossover SUVs like the Cherokee and Ford Escape continued to gobble up market share during November, gaining two full percentage points over a year ago to 15.5 percent of U.S. sales. The gains came at the expense of small and midsize cars. Midsize cars fell one point to 14.5 percent, while small cars dropped a point to around 20 percent, Merkle said.

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