Many experts are predicting that the 2011 year-end sales volume will be one of the best years we've seen in quite a while. Of course, that's not saying much, given the fact the U.S. economy took a huge hit at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009.
Auto sales just over two years ago were 10.4 million vehicles, while conservative guesses on the final 2011 numbers will be closer to 12.8 million units. Early optimistic prognosticators say 2012 could get us back closer to a prosperous 14 million vehicles sold in a single year.
The final numbers are still at least a week or two away, but we do have the plant production numbers as reported by the various auto manufacturers, which then reported to Automotive News. And the numbers look promising. Of course, these are not actual sales, but they do represent the vehicles produced by the manufacturers as a result of the requests by their dealership networks.
Overall, not too many surprises. Small, fuel-efficient cars like the Chevy Cruze and Ford Fusion, as well as the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, continue to sell well. A bigger surprise might be the fact that small SUVs have done quite well, such as the Jeep Compass, Ford Escape, GMC Terrain and Chevy Equinox. Likewise, the more traditional body-on-frame two- and four-door Jeep Wranglers are causing quite a stir, with production numbers closing in on 200,000 units for the year.
However, the segment with the biggest consistent gains is the pickup truck category. Most who watch this segment closely know there was a lot of pent-up demand for these vehicles; professional, construction and fleet buyers have postponed their purchases, waiting for the economy to show small signs of growth.
Except for imports (all three had supply-line issues because of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan), most truck makers are doing well, beating the average year-over-year sales improvement of 10 percent. Of course, we'll have more to talk about and more to say when the final numbers come in.
Here's what we know from the mid-December production numbers from last week:
* Indicates discontinued models