Americans purchased about 11.5 million vehicles last year, about an 11% increase from 2009, according to preliminary reports from automakers Tuesday and analysts’ estimates.
Although a large improvement over the recession-depressed level of 2009, last year’s sales still were the second lowest since 1982, when Americans purchased just 10.5 million vehicles. From 1999 through 2007, the auto industry sold from 16 million to more than 17 million vehicles annually.
But the industry has rallied in recent months, and December continued that trend.
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General Motors Co. was the first of the major automakers to report Tuesday, saying December sales rose 15.5% from a year earlier, to 223,932 vehicles, after factoring out the Pontiac, Hummer, Saturn and Saab brands it closed or sold as part of its bankruptcy reorganization during the summer of 2009. Of its remaining brands, Buick, Cadillac and GMC posted double-digit gains, while Chevrolet was up 9.1% for the month. Including the discontinued lines, GM’s December sales rose 7.5%, to 224,185.
For the year, sales of GM’s core brands rose 21.3%, to 2.2 million vehicles. Including the discontinued lines, sales rose 6.3%.