US Auto Sales Broadly Top Estimates, but Toyota Misses

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Major automakers reported U.S. auto sales in December that were broadly higher on Thursday. Although most topped analysts' estimates, Toyota's sales fell short of expectations.

Toyota reported a 9 percent rise in auto sales last month, missing forecasts of 13.1 percent. Meanwhile, Chrysler's December U.S. auto sales shot up 10 percent, beating expectations, while rivals Ford's and General Motors also topped forecasts.

Chrysler easily beat analysts' estimates, as the first of the major automakers to report sales on Thursday. The company showed its 33rd consecutive month of year-on-year sales gains, and its annual sales rose 21 percent.

Industrywide, U.S. auto sales for 2012 are expected to show a 13 percent rise to 14.5 million new vehicles, the best showing since 2007, driven by the slowly recovering economy, more available credit and the need to replace aging cars and trucks.

Polk, a research consulting firm, said it expects U.S. auto sales to hit 15.3 million in 2013, an increase of nearly 7 percent. Each month, auto sales are an early indicator of consumer demand. Chrysler is managed by its majority owner, Italian automaker Fiat SpA.

Ford reported a 1.9 percent rise in U.S. sales in December, topping analysts' forecasts of a 1.6 percent increase. The company's December sales figure was its best since 2006.

General Motors also beat U.S. sales in December. The company's sales rose 4.9 percent, topping estimates of a 1.9 percent increase.