November auto sales rate hits 17.2M

The top six automakers sold more cars and trucks in November than analysts expected, with a healthy economy, generous discounts and low fuel prices luring consumers into U.S. showrooms.

The auto sales rate totaled 17.2 million in November, according to Autodata. That marks the strongest pace for the month of November since 2003. The figure was well above the 16.7 million pace analysts had estimated, according to Thomson Reuters.

U.S. automobile sales rose 4.6 percent in November to 1.3 million, Autodata reported Tuesday. Raw auto sales for November were the best since 2001 when GM launched it's "Keep America Rolling" campaign in an attempt to kickstart post-9/11 sales.

General Motors, Chrysler Group, Toyota Motor and Honda Motor all reported year-to-year sales gains in last month. Ford and Nissan Motor, however, saw slight declines.

``This sustained demand for new vehicles was building for years during the recession, and it should continue unless a major shift in economic stability occurs,'' said analyst Karl Brauer of Kelley Blue Book.

CNBC's Phil LeBeau contribute to this report.