US carmakers on Wednesday reported a jump in November sales as they reaped the fruit of SUV promotions and a rise in consumer confidence, while Japan's Toyota sales slipped into reverse.
"Firm double-digit gains for most in what historically is one of the year's weakest sales months could indicate the standoff with consumers and the still-wavering economy could be easing," said analyst Bill Visnic of Edmunds.com.
General Motors reported US vehicle sales for November jumped 11.4 percent from a year ago in a month marked by GM's historic return to Wall Street as it sheds government ownership following its massive bailout last year.
Ford reported US sales rose 24.3 percent in November from the same period in 2009, with 147,338 vehicles sold on the back of a 34 percent rise in truck sales.
And Chrysler, which was also salvaged by a massive taxpayers' bailout, reported US sales rose 17 percent in November from last year, in the eighth straight month of year-to-year sales increases.
Chrysler sold 74,152 vehicles last month, it said.
At the same time, Toyota, the world's largest carmaker and third in the United States, reported a 7.3 percent drop in US sales to 129,317 vehicles in November as it continues to fight a series of safety problems.
The robust sales results for US automakers, which exceeded most expectations, were due to "strengthening sales of large trucks and big SUVs (sport utility vehicles), in part, because of attractive incentives, heavy promotions and a gradually improving economy," said Edmunds.com analyst Michelle Krebs.
GM, the largest US automaker, said sales of its four brands - Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac - totaled 168,704 vehicles in November, up 11.4 percent from November 2009.
"Each brand came to the party in November," said Don Johnson, US sales operations vice president.
"These results show that our brands continue to gain momentum with consumers who want stylish, fuel-efficient vehicles," he said in a statement.
GM returned to public trading on November 18, marking a dramatic turnaround for the embattled company.
The Detroit, Michigan-based automaker was forced into bankruptcy protection in June 2009 amid massive debts and a 50-billion-dollar government bailout.
The initial public offering of stock, which raised more than 23.7 billion dollars, lowered the government stake in the company below 50 percent and recouped 11.7 billion dollars for US taxpayers.
Krebs praised the results from Ford, the only Big Three carmaker to avoid bankruptcy and a government bailout.
"Every new model introduced has been a marketplace hit, most recently, the redesigned Ford Edge whose sales were up 55 percent this month. And Ford has more on deck, notably the new Ford Focus and the promising Ford Explorer," Krebs said.
"Ford's broad range of high-quality, fuel-efficient vehicles is driving one of our best years ever and positioning Ford to deliver improved results in the future," said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president of sales and marketing.
GM shares closed 1.7 percent higher and Ford stocks rose 3.3 percent.