Aggressive discounting and the continued popularity of big pickup trucks helped propel November vehicle sales well past expectations, with the three Detroit automakers and two of Japan's top three reporting year-to-year increases on Tuesday.
The industry's torrid sales pace in November reached an annual rate of 16 million vehicles, according to General Motors. That was the second highest for the year and well above last month's annual rate of 15.2 million.
Analysts polled earlier by Thomson Reuters had estimated the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate in November was 15.75 million.
(Read more: Holiday spending highlights US wealth gap: Nomura)
Manufacturers continued to provide ample incentives averaging $2,500 per vehicle and more in November, according to research firm TrueCar.com.