2012 Was A Very Good Year For The Car Industry

Last year was the third straight year of double-digit growth for the auto industry. Chrysler had the biggest increase for an American company with a 21 percent increase over the previous year.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with a roundup of auto sales.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: We mentioned the other day that auto sales numbers for 2012 were looking like they were going to be very good. Now we have the numbers. For the auto industry, sales increased by 13 percent in 2012 and the major carmakers were profitable.

NPR's Sonari Glinton tells us why.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: 2012 brought with it the third straight year of double digit growth for the auto industry.

Alec Gutierrez is an industry analyst with Kelley Blue Book. He says that the industry as a whole is doing something it's never really done before.

ALEC GUTIERREZ: So really, while more and more vehicles were sold this year, it's really a testament to the manufacturers and their ability to provide the vehicles that consumers actually want to drive and desire.

GLINTON: So the auto industry as whole is finally learning a lesson you might learn if you, say, set up a set up a lemonade stand: Sell people what they want. It's like econ 101 - or as Gutierrez says...

(LAUGHTER)

GUTIERREZ: Introduction to pre-econ.

GLINTON: Here's a list of the major players whose sales improved by the most in 2012. Volkswagen was up 35 percent, that's big, even for a company that's relatively small in the U.S. Toyota 27, Honda 24. They both had bad years in 2011 because of the Japanese tsunami so there was a lot of room for growth. Chrysler had the biggest increase for an American company, 21 percent.

OK, here's where the numbers fall off a cliff. Ford had an increase of 4.7 percent and General Motors was up 3.7.

Jessica Caldwell is with Edmunds.com and she says you can expect GM and Ford to do better next year, but...

JESSICA CALDWELL: You kind of wonder what went wrong there. But it's not necessarily something that went wrong, it was just the fact that their competitors had such a high increase and skewed the average so differently.

GLINTON: Meanwhile, Alec Gutierrez says even without help from a strong economy, the entire industry nailed it in 2012.

GUTIERREZ: Those of us in the industry have for a long time recognized that we're really in the most competitive market that we've ever seen. I mean there are strong competitive and viable alternatives available from all manufacturers in the marketplace, whether it's Hyundai, Volkswagen, Honda, Chevrolet or Ford. What's interesting to me is that it seems as though the message has not yet reached the average consumer.

GLINTON: Eh, that's what Super Bowls are for.

Sonari Glinton NPR News.

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