Auto sales propelled economy in 2012

Brad Plumer / The Washington Post /


Published Jan 2, 2013 at 04:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

WASHINGTON — It’s not too much of an exaggeration to say the U.S. economy was powered by car sales in 2012. Auto companies are now expected to have sold 14.5 million new vehicles in 2012, according to Kelley Blue Book. That’s a 13 percent rise over last year and the highest number of sales since the financial crisis hit.

If cars hadn’t been flying out of dealerships, the year would have looked considerably bleaker. Vehicle purchases by consumers alone accounted for roughly 30 percent of all economic growth in the first half of the year, according to Credit Suisse.

And what made this car-buying frenzy so striking is that 2012 also happened to be a terrible year for car recalls. As auto analyst Jim Gorzelany reports, automakers had to recall some 14.3 million vehicles over the past year.

But that didn’t slow down car sales one bit. Indeed, as Gorzelany explains, Toyota and Honda had to issue the greatest number of recalls in 2012 — Toyota with 5 million, Honda with nearly 3.4 million. Yet both companies increased their market share this year: Toyota’s sales were up some 17.3 percent over last year, while Honda’s were up nearly 25 percent.