George and Sheila Snyder, of Washington, Vt., take delivery of their 2011 Ford Escape from John Cassel at the Formula Ford dealership showroom in Montpelier.
By Ann Belser Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Happy New Year, Detroit.
Domestic automakers were able to celebrate Tuesday when they reported their 2010 sales were well above sales for 2009.
The sales figures announced by the Big Three put Chrysler up 16 percent and Ford up 19 percent, while General Motors, despite cutting half of the company's brands, sold 6.3 percent more cars, trucks and crossovers.
The numbers were encouraging, particularly since 2010 is being compared to 2009 when the government ran the Cash for Clunkers incentive program that encouraged new car sales.
Car and truck sales came in at 11.6 million for the year, up 11 percent from last year, automakers reported Tuesday.
For December alone, sales were 1.14 million, also up 11 percent from a year earlier.
While the figures have some in the industry talking about a return to the glory days, it's a fragile idea.
Rising gas prices or more economic trouble could still shake the confidence of American car buyers.
But for now, executives are optimistic about this year. General Motors, Ford and Toyota all predict sales will come in at 12.5 million to 13 million for 2011.
It will take years, analysts expect, to get back to the peak sales of the middle of last decade -- close to 17 million.
"The economic downturn has lasted quite awhile," said Jessica Caldwell, director of pricing and analysis for consumer website Edmunds.com. "It's going to be slow and gradual rather than a fast bounce-back."
American car companies' biggest foreign rival, Toyota, reported that sales dropped for its passenger cars by 9.5 percent last year with the company's overall sales for cars and trucks remaining essentially flat at 1.7 million vehicles.
Honda and Nissan both saw growth in their 2010 American sales over 2009.
Honda saw sales increase by 7.6 percent with sales of 1.2 million cars.
Nissan experienced an 18 percent sales increase to 908,000 vehicles.
Hyundai also had a good year. Sales for the South Korean car manufacturer were up by 24 percent to 538,000 vehicles.
Over the entire year, GM sold 2.2 million cars, despite selling Saab and shuttering its Hummer, Pontiac and Saturn lines to concentrate on Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC.
Last year the company sold 2 million cars.
GM's December numbers were also good.
The company sold 223,932 vehicles, or 11.5 percent over December 2009.
Comparing year-over-year sales of the surviving brands, the company experienced a sales increase of 21.3 percent over 2009.
Ford reported December sales of 190,976 vehicles in its Ford, Lincoln and Mercury brands.
It was the highest for any month since August 2009 when the Cash For Clunkers program ended, and up 17 percent over December 2009.
It was a good year for pickup truck sales.
Ford sold 27.7 percent more F-Series trucks in 2010 (528,349 pickups) than it did in 2009.
Chevrolet's Silverado pickup sold 370,000 units, a 16.9 percent increase over 2009.
Overall Ford sold 27.1 percent more trucks across all its brands than it did last year, and 17 percent more cars.
Chrysler's sales increases were driven by the car market.
The company sold 24 percent more cars in 2010 over 2009 and 14 percent more trucks.