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Smarter automakers, confident consumers driving car sales back up (+video)

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Several economic factors are driving sales upward: easier credit availability, lowering interest rates for financing and leasing, and a stabilizing housing market that, while not directly related to automotive sales, β€œis making people feel better in general about their economic situation,” says Jessica Caldwell, a senior analyst at Edmunds.com, an automotive analysis firm in Santa Monica, Ca.

Consumers are holding onto their cars longer than they ever have in the past, choosing to repair or maintain their vehicles rather than spend more to purchase new. However, the breaking point to ditch the old vehicles and head to the showroom seems to have arrived: The average age of vehicles on US roads is now 11.2 years, says Polk. While some of those older vehicles may remain on the driveway – the average US household owns 2 vehicles – others may be ditched for refreshed vehicles that offer better safety features and improved fuel economy.

Of the three US automakers, the Chrysler Group saw the greatest boost in year-to-year sales gains, with sales soaring 21 percent in 2012, compared with Ford Motor Co. and General Motors, which enjoyed 4.7 percent and 3.7 percent sales gains, respectively.

Chrysler said Wednesday its year-end sales of 1.7 million vehicles represented its best year since 2007. In a statement, the company reported that its continued sales records are the result of sales increases in its Jeep brand, which increased 13 percent last year over the year before, and Dodge, which had the largest sales volume of any Chrysler Group brand.

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