GM posts 11 percent U.S. sales increase


By David Bailey

DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Co's <GM.N> U.S. sales rose 11 percent overall in November, in line with gains projected for the industry amid a slow but steady return in consumer demand from the depressed levels a year earlier.

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Sales in GM's four remaining U.S. brands following its restructuring rose 21 percent in November from a year earlier, said GM, which completed the largest-ever IPO in November to return to the U.S. stock market.

Analysts overall expect automakers to report sales at slightly above a 12 million annualized rate for light vehicles, driven by discounting aimed to counter a slow return in consumer demand.

GM said its core Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac brands were on track to gain market share for the year. Sales of GM's Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave sister crossovers rose a combined 38 percent from a year earlier.

The new Chevy Cruze helped punch car sales up 17 percent in November from a year earlier, GM said. GM shares were up 1.3 percent at $34.65 on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday morning.

Auto sales for November are one of the first snapshots of consumer behavior at the holiday shopping season. However, automakers typically run year-end discount programs from before the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday through year end.

Hyundai Motor Co <005380.KS> and Ford Motor Co <F.N>, are expected to have the biggest sales gains in November, continuing a trend that has seen the two automakers take share from rivals in 2010.

The final weekend of November sales was lifted by Thanksgiving holiday deals sponsored by individual dealers and manufacturers, including Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> and Nissan Motor Co <7201.T>, analysts said.

Analysts expect Toyota to report a 2 percent sales drop in November despite increased spending on incentives, making it the only major automaker with a decline and illustrating the difficulties Toyota still faces in winning back U.S. consumers a year after starting recalls that rocked its reputation for quality and safety.

Toyota said on Monday it would fix about 378,000 Prius models in the United States because of a risk that a coolant pump could malfunction and cause the car to overheat and lose power.

Since last November, Toyota has recalled about 14 million vehicles worldwide, including 11 million in the United States.

Analysts have come to expect the annualized sales rate for November to come in right around October's 12.2 million rate. That would be encouraging for the traditionally slow sales month for the industry, analysts said.

After a disastrous 2009 that saw GM and Chrysler collapse into government-funded bankruptcies, the industry is expected to see 2010 sales of about 11.5 million vehicles. That would represent a gain of about 10 percent.

Most industry estimates for 2011 put sales between 12 million and 13 million vehicles. Before the financial crisis, automakers routinely sold more than 16 million vehicles per year in the U.S. market.

(Reporting by David Bailey, Kevin Krolicki and Deepa Seetharaman, editing by Matthew Lewis)

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