Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 5, 2014

Chrysler finishesa strong 2013

Automaker sales up 9 percent compared to 2012.

By Scott Smith Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — The truck reigned supreme for Chrysler Group LLC in 2013, with truck sales increasing by 15 percent over 2013, leading the company to a fourth straight year of increasing sales volume.

Full-year Chrysler Group sales were up 9 percent in 2013, compared with sales during 2012, marking the strongest annual sales for the carmaker since 2007.

The Ram Truck brand, with its 22 percent increase in 2013, had the largest full-year sales gain of any Chrysler Group brand, while the company’s car sales were a mixed bag.

Overall, Chrysler Group car sales in the U.S. were up 11 percent in 2013, led by a 19 percent increase in sales of Dodge Chargers, as well as the introduction in late 2012 of the Dodge Dart.

Car sales in most categories showed a significant decline, however, when comparing December 2012 with this past December, the Charger being the big exception.

The month-to-month comparisons show a 17 percent decline in car sales this past December, more than offset by a 15 percent increase in truck sales. Overall, truck sales made up almost 70 percent of Chrysler’s volume in 2013, almost unchanged from 2012.

According to Chrysler, the Jeep brand set a global sales record in 2013, and Jeep brand sales were up 34 percent in December, its best December sales ever and the largest percentage sales gain of any Chrysler Group brand for the month.

The Jeep brand’s December sales were second only to record sales in July 2005, and the Jeep Cherokee, late arriving to dealerships this year, showed potential as a blockbuster, with sales increasing 48 percent over November sales.

It was a big week for Chrysler, with parent company FiatSpA announcing it had reached an agreement with the United Auto Workers union-affiliated Voluntary Employees Benefits Association to purchase shares owned by the healthcare trust for $3.65 billion.

Fiat is putting up $1.75 million in the deal, with Chrysler contributing the rest of the cash. Chrysler also committed to an additional $700 million in funding for the trust in the future.

Analysts said Chrysler’s December sales, which were up 5.7 percent from a year ago, missed predictions of an 8 percent gain. Slower than expected sales were seen at other automakers last month, with Chrysler and others partially blaming bad weather for the somewhat tepid sales month.

Overall, U.S. auto sales are expected to finish near 15.6 million vehicles, up about 8 percent, according to Reuters.

This should be best sales year since 2007, just prior to the recession, when 16.1 million vehicles were sold in the U.S. market. The worst year for auto sales was 2009, when 10.4 million vehicles were sold.

Scott Smith can be reached at 765-454-8569, scott.smith@kokomotribune.com, or on Twitter, @JasonSSmith1.