DETROIT – It’s not quite boom times for the U.S. auto industry. But it’s getting there.
Sales of new cars and trucks rose 13 percent to 14.5 million in 2012. And if they climb much beyond that, they’ll be closing in on a high set in 2005.
Cheap loans, a host of new cars and greater confidence in the economy are drawing buyers into showrooms. Plus, Americans who hung on to aging cars during the recession are ready to trade them in.
Here are some of the highlights and lowlights of 2012:
Winners – Volkswagen saw a 35-percent jump in sales in 2012, one of the biggest increases in the industry. The new Passat midsize car was the driver, with sales up 413 percent over 2011. Chrysler’s sales jumped 21 percent thanks to strong sales of the Dodge Caravan minivan and the Jeep Grand Cherokee SUV.
Losers – Both General Motors and Ford lagged behind the industry in 2012. GM saw a 4 percent sales increase for the year, hurt by weak truck and Cadillac sales. Ford’s sales were up 5 percent after new versions of some of its biggest sellers – the Ford Escape SUV and Fusion sedan – had to be recalled for safety problems. But they still had plenty of bright spots. Car and SUV sales were solid. New models like the Ford C-Max hybrid and the Buick Verano small car were well received.
Welcome back, Japan – Toyota’s U.S. sales rose 28 percent and the Camry sedan had its best year since 2008. Honda’s sales rose 24 percent, while Subaru was up 26 percent.
Subaru recalling 634,000 vehicles
DETROIT – Subaru is recalling nearly 634,000 cars and SUVs in the U.S. because lights beneath the doors can overheat and catch fire.
The recall affects all Outback and Legacy cars from model years 2010 and 2011. Also included are Tribeca SUVs from 2006 through 2012 and Forester SUVs from 2009 through 2012. Subaru says the Tribecas and Foresters were sold before January 2012.
The company says moisture can get into puddle lights beneath the doors and cause a short circuit that can melt plastic and cause fires. It says only 54,000 of the vehicles are equipped with the lights and will need to be repaired.
30-year mortgage rates fall to 3.34 percent
WASHINGTON – Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages moved closer to their record lows this week, a trend that has made home buying more affordable and helped sustain a housing recovery.
Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac says the average rate on the 30-year loan slipped to 3.34 percent from 3.35 percent last week. That’s near the 3.31 percent rate reached in November, the lowest on records dating to 1971.
The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage ticked down to 2.64 percent from 2.65 percent last week. The record low is 2.63 percent.