2012 was a good year to be an automaker.
Nearly every manufacturer saw a significant new-car sales increase last year as the industry posted a 13.4 percent increase in the U.S. compared to 2011, according to New Jersey-based Autodata Corp.
There were about 14.5 million new cars sold in 2012. The seasonally adjusted annual rate in the U.S. was about 15.4 million, according to Autodata.
Volkswagen posted a 35 percent sales increase for both December and the year; Chrysler was up about 21 percent for the year.
“Our dealership echoes the national trend as far as an increase in volume,” said Daniel Sunderland, vice president of Silver Spring Township-based Sun Motor Cars Inc., a dealer for Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Porsche and Audi.
All four brands posted double-digit gains nationally as well as locally. Sunderland cited annual sale increases of 10.4 percent at the company’s Mercedes-Benz dealership, 11 percent at the Porsche and Audi facility and 13.6 percent at BMW.
Sunderland said the industry is still ramping back up from a very poor period caused by the recession. He also credits the product lines that his brands have put out in recent years.
Sun saw a 45 percent increase in its Sprinter commercial vehicles in 2012. That brand has continued to grow since the company became a dealer three years ago, he said.
The dealer is currently spending $1 million to double the size of its drive-thru service area for Sprinter. It will add six service bays, Sunderland said, expecting a 25 percent increase in 2013 on the commercial vehicles.
“I know we’re going to have growth (in 2013),” he said. “I don’t know if it will be double-digit growth again.”
In Swatara Township, Faulkner Subaru was up about 30 percent compared with 2011, said Matt Smith, president of the company’s Subaru and Mazda dealerships.
“We’ve grown just as the manufacturer has grown,” he said.
In fact, with 800 new car sales in 2012 and anticipated growth moving forward, the Subaru dealership is undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation, Smith said.
“We have to keep up with the volume we’re doing,” he said.
The Subaru brand posted a 26 percent sales increase in 2012 with 336,441 vehicles sold, an all-time record.
“We’re the only manufacturer who can say they’ve had a sales increase over the past five years,” Smith said.
Faulkner Subaru is optimistic the momentum will carry over to 2013, he said.
“I think we’re going to do even better here this year,” said John Devlin, president of the Pennsylvania Automotive Association. “I think there is still a lot of pent-up demand.”
The industry saw a significant slowdown in 2008 and 2009. It started to recover in 2010.
“There were a couple of really lean years,” Devlin said.
For much of the decade leading up to 2008, automakers sold 16 million to 17 million vehicles annually. With the financial fallout from the housing and stock market collapse, auto sales plunged to 13.2 million in 2008 and to 10.4 million in 2009, the lowest since 1982.
Like the housing market, which also was rocked hard by the recession, the auto industry has been rebounding — only faster.
“We’ve come out first. It’s not as big of a purchase compared to a home,” he said. “I think we pulled out of it. We’ve really been the bright spot in the economy in 2011 and 2012.”
Mitsubishi, Saab and Suzuki were the only three brands to record U.S. sales declines in 2012, according to Autodata.