Ford Rises as Auto Industry Posts Nov. Sales Gains

Tickers in this article: F GM TM

DETROIT ( TheStreet) -- Ford (F) said November sales rose 6%, while GM (GM) reported a gain of 3.4% as the auto industry remained a bright spot for the economy.

Shares in Ford were rising in early trading Monday, up 14 cents to $11.59 shortly after the open. GM shares were flat. In New York, Ford CEO Alan Mulally was scheduled to appear at Lincoln Center to discuss Lincoln marketing as Ford seeks to reinvent the 90-year-old luxury brand. Meanwhile, Chrysler reported its best November sales since 2007, with sales up 14%, while Toyota (TM) said its sales rose 17% to 161, 695.

On the Ford sales call, analyst Erich Merkle said Hurricane Sandy created industry demand for 20,000 to 30,000 vehicles in November, including sales delayed from October as well as replacement vehicles.. "We expect the replacement demand to lead in December and it will take us through the first half," he said.

Ford said November sales totaled 177,673, with retail sales up 12%. Small-car sales rose 76% to 26,848, as Focus sales rose 56% to 18,312. Overall, car sales rose 15%, trucks rose 4% and utilities rose 2%. Sales of the F-Series pickup, the best-selling U.S. vehicle, rose 18% to 56,299.

However, Fusion sales declined 24% to 15,125, as Ford introduced a new model. Lincoln sales fell 9.1% to 5,732. Escape sales fell 3.9% to 20,970, but Edge sales rose 4.7% to 10,142.

GM reported its highest November sales in the United States since 2007, with deliveries of 186,505 vehicles. Retail sales were flat and fleet sales rose 16%. Passenger-car sales rose 19%, crossover sales rose 9% and truck sales fell 11%. GM said it declined to match "unexpectedly high competitive incentive activity" in the pickup truck sector.

Buick sales rose 22% to 13,289 while Cadillac sales rose 30% to 14,517. Chevrolet sales were flat at 128,867.

Analysts were looking for a low double-digit sales increase for November. TrueCar.com forecast a 13% gain while Edmunds.com predicted an 11% gain and a seasonally adjusted annualized sales rate of 15 million, up from 14.3 million in October. Ford's Merkle said industry November sales were up about 10%. NoMerSo far, frenzy over the so-called fiscal cliff doesn't seem to have impacted auto sales, while Hurricane Sandy has stimulated demand for replacement vehicles.

"The East Coast's ongoing recovery from Hurricane Sandy helped drive the November SAAR materially higher, but it benefited our competitors more than GM, since they rely on the region for more of their sales," said Kurt McNeil, GM vice president of U.S. sales, in a prepared statement.

At Chrysler, four brands -- Chrysler, Dodge, Ram Truck, and Fiat -- all showed increases, ranging from 1% at Chrysler to 123% at Fiat. But Jeep brand sales fell 3%, reflecting the end of Jeep Liberty production in August and a lingering impact from Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast, a strong Jeep market.