Sales of large cars remain bright spot in slowing USA auto market

US auto sales drop in 2017

Investors ignore sales outlook

For the full year 2017, Jaguar Land Rover U.S. sales reached 114,333 units, up 9% compared to 105,104 units in 2016, and establishing a new all-time U.S. sales record for the combined brands.

Light trucks, which include pickups and SUVs, gained share last year, accounting for 63% of USA sales through November, up from 59% a year earlier, according to researcher Autodata Corp.

Ford's sales fell 1.1 percent to 2.6 million compared to 2016, but it reported a surprise increase in December, fueled in part by the continued success of the F-Series pickups and other large vehicles.

Fiat Chrysler reported an 11% decline for the month.

"While we had a decline (in December) on a year-over-year basis, the strength during all of 2017 was such that we shattered the previous record, surpassing two million units for the first time ever", said Carlos Gomes, a senior economist and auto industry specialist at Scotiabank.

"I'm actually surprised the industry was as strong as it was, we had some pretty severe weather, bitterly cold in much of the country", Mark LaNeve, Ford's USA sales chief, said on a call with analysts and reporters.

"December capped off a record year for Ford brand SUVs, making it eight consecutive years of Ford brand sales leadership".

"It's good news in the sense that it highlights that the consumer is coming back to the market with soaring demands for crossovers, but it's also telling us that business investment is also strengthening, which is confirmed by a sharp improvement in pickup truck sales".

Investors were pleased GM had cut its inventory of unsold vehicles - a concern for the industry earlier in 2017 - at the end of December to 63 days supply unsold vehicles, beating its target of about 70 days supply.

Despite the decline, analysts note that sales above 17 million are still very strong.

"It's still a buoyant industry and the underlying factors that drive it are still very positive", said Mark LaNeve, Ford Motor Co.'s US sales chief.

Despite the usual year-end push to get vehicles out the door, most automakers endured tough sledding in December.

Ford says, even with bitter temperatures and snow, it saw strong sales in the last 10 days of December.

Ford's light vehicle deliveries rose 1.3% last month as its F-Series pickup line had its best year since 2005. The GM plant in Oshawa is being repurposed to start producing GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverdo trucks starting this month. Fiesta sales fell by 3% and Fusion sales fell 8.8% year over year. GM's sales fell 3 percent.

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