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Five of the top six automakers sold more cars and trucks in November than analysts expected, with a surging economy, heavy discounting and falling fuel prices luring consumers into U.S. showrooms.
General Motors on Tuesday said November sales rose 6.5 percent to 225,818 vehicles.
"Lower gasoline prices are helping the entire market, not just SUVs and trucks," said GM spokesman Jim Cain, adding that fuel prices "are just one factor among many that are helping boost sales industry-wide." He cited a stronger economy, improving consumer confidence, higher wages and lower unemployment.
Sales of GM's Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickups climbed 34 percent to 65,343. The big trucks accounted for 29 percent of GM's total sales volume in November.
Chrysler Group sales rose 20.1 percent to 170,839 vehicles on strong showings by its Jeep brand and Ram pickup trucks, the unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV said.
Chrysler's Ram pickup truck sales were up 21 percent, while Jeep SUV sales jumped 27 percent.
Ford Motor reported a slight decline in sales to 186,334, about what analysts had expected. Sales of the best-selling F-150 pickup were down 10 percent to 59,049 as the automaker began a changeover to the redesigned 2015 model.
Toyota Motor said sales rose 3 percent to 183,343, while Nissan reported sales down 3 percent to 103,188. Both companies beat analysts' expectations.
Luxury brands showed mixed results in November. Ford's Lincoln was up 21 percent, but GM's Cadillac fell 19 percent and Nissan Motor's Infiniti was down 13 percent.
Last week's strong Black Friday showing was expected to push U.S. November auto sales up 2.3 percent to about 1.27 million vehicles, according to a survey of 11 analysts by Reuters.
Early indications were that the industry's annualized sales rate in November was more than 17 million vehicles, the best pace for that month since 2003.
A Thomson Reuters survey of 41 industry economists and analysts showed expectations of 16.7 million vehicles sold on an annualized basis, with a high forecast of 17 million vehicles on an annualized basis.
In October, U.S. sales were 16.46 million vehicles on an annualized basis.