SUVs, large sedans lift Chrysler sales 37% in December
DETROIT -- Chrysler Group continued a strong 2011 comeback with a 37 percent sales increase in December, which Chrysler said was its best retail sales month in four years.
Several of Chrysler's signature vehicles -- the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger sedans, the Jeep Wrangler and Grand Cherokee SUVs, and the Ram full-sized pickup -- had strong sales gains in December.
For the year, Chrysler Group sales rose 26 percent to 1.37 million units. All four of its core brands posted double-digit increase.
Chrysler has now gained U.S. market share in two consecutive years. Chrysler Group's 2011 U.S. market share increased to 10.7 percent from 9.4 percent in 2010.
Chrysler's 2011 results include 19,769 sales of the Fiat 500, which went on sale in March.
"Overall, the dealer mood is euphoric. The momentum with the dealer body right now is great. We ended the year on the highest note we could end on," said David Kelleher, the incoming chairman of Chrysler Group's National Dealers Council and the owner of David Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep in Glen Mills, Pa.
Chrysler brand sales rose 83 percent in December to 23,974 units. Jeep sales climbed 41 percent to 43,577, while Dodge sales jumped 28 percent to 41,548. Ram brand sales rose 10 percent to 26,595 units.
For the full year, Dodge sales increased 18 percent to 451,040 units. Jeep sales rose 44 percent to 419,349. Ram sales climbed 21 percent to 257,610 units, and Chrysler brand sales rose 12 percent to 221,346 units.
"Chrysler Group finished a year of growth on a strong note with our December retail sales soaring 45 percent to our highest dealer retail sales in four years," said Reid Bigland, CEO of the Dodge brand and Chrysler's head of U.S. sales. "Looking back, we were the fastest-growing automaker in the country, increasing our market share 1.3 percentage points during 2011."
One former weak spot in the Chrysler/Fiat product lineup, the Fiat 500, had its strongest retail month of the year at 2,325 units, spokesman Ralph Kisiel said. Chrysler Group will continue a $199 per month sign-and-drive lease incentive on the subcompact into this month, he said.
But two of Chrysler's core products, the Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans, each had lower sales for December and the full year. Together, sales of the two minivans were down a combined 11 percent to 21,498 units in December, while sales for the full year fell 5 percent to 205,182 units.
Kelleher said the two minivans may be suffering from neglect on a busy showroom floor. "The minivan was a staple; you couldn't have a good month unless you sold minivans. But we've got so much traffic on the other stuff, it's hard to pay attention to the minivan sometimes."
Here are December sales numbers for a few notable nameplates:
Ram pickup, up 12 percent from December 2010 to 26,013.
Jeep Grand Cherokee, up 36 percent to 17,346.
Chrysler 200, up 661 percent over the Sebring to 9,213.
The automaker reported total sales of 138,019 units in December, up 37 percent from the 100,702 units during the same month a year ago.
Chrysler Group ended the month with a 64-day supply of inventory, Kisiel said.
You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at email@example.com.