GM Sales Rise 5%, Ford Gains 2% as Auto Industry Closes Strong Year

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For the full year, Edmunds projected sales of 14.5 million, which would the highest annual sales total since 2007. That total is "more than a million better than most market forecasts at this time a year ago," wrote analyst Peter Nesvold, in a note.

U.S. light-vehicle sales totaled 12.8 million in 2011; 11.6 million in 2010; 10.3 million in 2009;13 million, the lowest total in 27 years, in 2008,and 16.1 million in 2007. From 1999 through 2007, sales exceeded 16 million.

The auto industry expects the positive trends to continue into 2013. LMC Automotive is forecasting sales of 15 million units this year, representing 4% growth.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.