Hurricane Sandy pushes strong U.S. auto sales higher - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Hurricane Sandy pushes strong U.S. auto sales higher

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DETROIT (AP) -- Superstorm Sandy gave an added push to already strong U.S. auto sales last month. But carmakers warn uncertainty over the "fiscal cliff" could hurt sales.

Most major companies, from Toyota to Chrysler, posted impressive increases from a year earlier. Only General Motors was left struggling to explain its 3-percent sales gain and large inventory of unsold trucks.

Americans were already willing to buy a new car or truck last month because they're more confident in the economy. Home values are rising, hiring is up and auto financing is readily available. Also, the average age of a vehicle on U.S. roads is approaching a record 11 years, so many people are looking to replace older cars.

Sandy boosted demand. Ford estimates that the storm added 20,000 to 30,000 sales industry wide in November, mostly from people who planned to buy cars during the October storm but had to delay their purchases. People who need to replace storm-damaged vehicles are expected to drive sales for several more months. GM estimates that 50,000 to 100,000 vehicles will eventually need to be replaced.

Luxury cars saw their usual yearend surge as holiday commercials crowd the airwaves. Porsche's sales rose 71 percent to 3,865, a record month for the automaker. Infiniti, Acura, BMW and Lexus all reported big gains.

Edmunds.com analyst Jessica Caldwell says luxury brands have historically targeted their customers at this time of year because of holiday bonuses. That's no longer a driving factor, she says, but it's still a good time of year for people to buy 2012 model-year luxury vehicles because dealers are trying to clear them out.

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