Dec 1, 3:36 PM EST

Black Friday deals lift US auto sales in November


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DETROIT (AP) -- Black Friday deals and postelection confidence helped pull November U.S. auto sales out of their recent slump - and increased the chances that 2016 could set a record for new vehicle sales.

Total U.S. sales rose 4 percent for the month to 1.38 million units. That makes it the highest November on record, beating the previous record of 1.32 million set in 2001, according to Kelley Blue Book.

Toyota Division General Manager Bill Fay said November sales were so good that the industry may even break last year's sales record of 17.47 million.

"I think it will be right around last year's record, maybe a little bit less," Fay told The Associated Press in an interview in Detroit. "But I think either way everybody will sign up for a lifetime of this."

General Motors' sales jumped 10 percent over last November. Ford's sales were up 5 percent, while Toyota and Hyundai both saw 4 percent sales increases. Honda's sales were up 6.5 percent and Nissan's sales rose 7.5 percent. Even Volkswagen, which has struggled all year because of its diesel cheating scandal, saw sales rise 24 percent.

Fiat Chrysler bucked the trend, with sales falling 14 percent as it made big cuts in sales to rental car companies. Other automakers were expected to report sales later Thursday.

Higher incentives enticed buyers who sat out much of the fall. July was the last month that sales increased year-over-year.

The average discount per vehicle last month was near $4,000, up by $600 from the same month last year, said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president for forecasting at the consulting firm LMC Automotive.

Automakers and dealers have always flooded the airwaves with holiday ads in December. But Black Friday is taking on increasing importance. Since 2013, sales during the weekend after Thanksgiving have been nearly double the sales during a typical November weekend, according to car shopping site Edmunds.com. Prior to 2013, automakers only saw a 39 percent increase in sales that weekend.

"Dealers and automakers clearly have found a way in recent years to break through the Black Friday clutter and connect with more car shoppers," said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds' senior director of industry analysis. An offer for $10,000 bonus cash on a 2016 Kia K900 was among the Black Friday deals Edmunds cited.

Because automakers seem to be willing to discount, Schuster said the industry probably will have a strong December.

"I don't think they're necessarily going to pull back with all the holiday deals in December," Schuster said.

Consumers also had a newfound confidence after the tumultuous election. U.S. consumer confidence reached its highest point in nine years in November, according to the Conference Board. That's a crucial factor for purchasing big-ticket items.

Toyota is expecting at least three more years of solid U.S. sales, said Bob Carter, senior vice president of auto operations. Even if sales don't match last year's record and are slightly below it, it's still good business, he said, adding that the industry already has seen an unprecedented six years of growth.

For November, automakers said:

- General Motors Co.'s sales rose 10 percent to 252,644. Its Buick, GMC and Cadillac brands all saw double-digit percentage increases in sales, while Chevrolet sales were up 8 percent. Full-size SUVs were strong sellers; sales of the Cadillac Escalade were up 25 percent while sales of the Chevrolet Tahoe jumped 31 percent.

- Toyota Motor Corp.'s sales rose 4 percent to 197,645. Luxury Lexus sales were down 1 percent but Toyota brand sales rose 5 percent. Low gas prices hurt sales of cars like the hybrid Prius, which was down 16.5 percent, but helped SUV sales. Toyota Highlander SUV sales jumped 67 percent

- Ford Motor Co.'s sales rose 5 percent to 197,574. Lincoln brand sales were up 19 percent thanks to the new Continental sedan and the redesigned MKX SUV. Sales of Ford's best-seller, the F-Series pickup, were up 11 percent as the new F-250 and F-350 went on sale.

- Fiat Chrysler's sales fell 14 percent to 160,827. All brands saw double-digit percentage declines except Ram, which was up 12 percent on strong sales of pickups and the ProMaster commercial van.

- Honda Motor Co.'s sales rose 6.5 percent to 122,924, a November record for the company. Luxury Acura sales dropped 5 percent, but Honda brand sales were up 8 percent. Honda's best-seller, the Accord sedan, saw sales rise 6 percent.

- Nissan Motor Co.'s sales were up 7.5 percent to 115,136, which was a November record. Nissan brand sales were up 8 percent, helped by strong sales of the newly redesigned Armada full-size SUV. Luxury Infiniti sales were up 4 percent.

- Hyundai Motor Co.'s sales rose 4 percent to 62,507, a November record. Sales of the Sonata and Elantra sedans fell, but the Santa Fe and Tucson SUVs both saw double-digit percentage gains.

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