Although most of the major automotive manufacturers reported strong sales of light-duty trucks – especially pickups – for November, these results have translated into only small year-over-year sales increases.

Chrysler said its total light truck sales increased 5% to 126,807 units in November, though sales have fallen just over 1% to 1.51 million units for the year. However, Chrysler noted that sales of its redesigned Ram pickup line have been strong, rising 15% to 33,941 units in November and climbing 13% to 409,252 units for the year to date.

Toyota reported strong sales as well, with its total light truck sales rising 31.1% to 74,610 units in November and 12.6% to 789,023 units year to date. Sales of Toyota’s pickups in November rose 10.4% overall, though they only increased 1.3% year to date.

Ford’s F-Series line did well in November, rising 9.8% to 64,737 units, but showed only a marginal increase in sales for the year thus far – a 2.7% increase to 760,929 units. Heavy truck sales rose 36.9% to 757 units in November, while rising 2.7% to 6,796 units for the year. Ford’s total truck sales have increased only slightly compared to last year – 1.4% in November and just 0.6% year to date – but that’s offset a steep decline in car sales, which fell 9.7% in November and 11.4% year to date compared to 2002.

GM’s light truck sales were strong in November, especially for its GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado pickups, but their impact on overall truck sales year to date has been small. GM’s light truck sales jumped 29.6% to 210,784 units in November, but have gone up only 1.1% to 2.48 million units year to date. Chevrolet full-size pickup sales went up 25% and GMC’s increased 17% in November compared to last year, with medium-duty truck sales up 55% full-size utility pickups up 45.5% for the month.

The upward trend in light truck sales is fueling more optimism among OEMs that the economy is in recovery. “The U.S. economy is getting better by the minute,” said Jim O' Connor, a group VP with Ford. “The momentum we are seeing in the economy should provide a solid foundation for auto sales in 2004.”