Superstorm boosts auto sales
Sandy delayed some sales until November, which might be best month since March ’08.
DETROIT — Superstorm Sandy gave an extra boost to already strong U.S. auto sales last month, although carmakers warned that uncertainty over the “fiscal cliff” could undo some of those gains.
Most major companies, from Toyota to Chrysler, posted impressive increases from a year earlier. Only General Motors was left struggling to explain its 3 percent sales gain and large inventory of unsold trucks.
Americans were already willing to buy a new car or truck last month because they’re more confident in the economy. Home values are rising, hiring is up and auto financing is readily avail- able. Also, the average age of a vehicle on U.S. roads is approaching a record 11 years, so many people are looking to replace older cars.
Sandy boosted that demand. The storm added 20,000 to 30,000 sales industrywide in November, mostly from people who planned to buy cars during the October storm but had to delay their purchases, Ford estimated. People who need to replace storm-damaged vehicles are expected to drive sales for several more months. GM estimates that 50,000 to 100,000 vehicles will eventually need to be replaced.
November sales, when calculated on an annual basis, are likely to be 15 million or more, the highest rate since March of 2008, according to LMC Automotive, a Detroit-area consulting firm. Both GM and Chrysler predicted November