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Ford posts higher US sales in December; GM, FCA down

© AFP | Ford's popular F150 pickup truck help the No. 2 US carmaker post a slight increase in sales in the final month of 2017, but the total for the year declined from the records set in 2016

NEW YORK (AFP) - 

Ford posted a surprise increase in December auto sales, while General Motors and Fiat Chrysler saw declines, the companies reported on Wednesday.

The results -- better than anticipated for Ford and GM and about as expectated for FCA -- caps a year in which US auto sales declined from 2016 records but were still expected above 17 million, a solid level.

Ford sold 242,049 vehicles last month, up 0.9 percent from December 2016, as the number two US automaker credited continued strength in the F-Series pickups and other large vehicles, which increasingly are the backbone of the US car industry.

The average price of best-selling F-Series came in at $47,800, a new record, marking an "unbelievable year" for the model, Ford Vice President Mark LaNeve said.

GM's sales came in at 308,539 in December, a 3.3 percent drop but still a bit above the projections of Edmunds.com and Kelley Blue Book.

GM also cited to strong sales gains in larger crossover and pickup categories, which the average retail price for all vehicles hit a record $35,400 in the final month of the year.

The biggest US automaker predicted another strong year of sales in 2018.

"In 2017, we had solid GDP growth and good news on employment, wages and consumer sentiment, which helped deliver very strong retail sales for the auto industry," GM chief economist Mustafa Mohatarem said.

"This year, many consumers will see their take-home pay rise because of tax reform. That will keep the broad economy growing, and help keep sales at very healthy levels even as the Fed increases interest rates."

FCA's sales fell 11 percent to 171,946, a bit below the level projected by Edmunds, but above the forecast by Kelley Blue Book. The figures were hit by lower sales to car rental companies.

For 2017, total US auto sales were on track to retreat from the record of about 17.6 million in 2016, which capped a run of increasing sales since 2009.

Ford's sales fell 1.1 percent to 2.6 million for the year compared to 2016, while GM's sales fell 1.3 percent to 3 million. FCA's press release did not give annual figures.

The winning streak of US car sales since 2009 "was the result of pent-up demand after the recession that's finally just running out," said Tim Fleming, an analyst at Kelley Blue Book.

Kelley was forecasting about 17.1 or 17.2 million in total sales last year, and projected a further drop to about 16.7 million in 2018, Fleming said.

© 2018 AFP