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A 44 percent increase in sales for the iconic brand helped Chrysler Group to outperform its American rivals in the sales tables and leapfrog past Honda.
Chrysler and Jeep, the parent company and its most famous brand, were the stars of the American car market for 2011. Chrysler Group sales astoundingly grew to 1.37 million cars and light tracks, an increase of 26.2 percent from the previous year. Jeep sales were also very impressive, having surged by 44 percent to 419,349 units. The day after this was announced, Fiat Group stated they had increased their stake in Chrysler Group by an additional 5 percent to a total of 58.5 percent.
And to the surprise of many industry watchers, three of Chrysler's brands were among the top ten of the best performing brands in 2011: Ram in 6th place with a growth of 21 percent and Dodge in 10th place, growing by 17.6 percent. Chrysler Group, whose sales in December jumped 37 percent (Chrysler brand sales grew by 83 percent due to the success of the 200 and 300 models), easily outperformed its Detroit rivals, Ford and General Motors. In a year in which sales in the American market grew by 10.2 percent to 12.75 million vehicles, GM sales grew by 13.2 percent to 2.5 million vehicles and Ford sales grew by 10.8 percent to 2.11 million.
Both automakers beat the industry average, but only by small margins. Chrysler leapfrogged past Honda into fourth place, whose 2011 sales dropped by 6.8 percent, to a total of 1.15 million units. However, they still trailed Toyota who finished off with a 6.7 percent increase to 1.64 vehicles. Just as important, 2011 will be remembered as the year in which Hyundai and Kia continued to grow in the US. Surprisingly, Kia easily outperformed its senior sibling with a sales growth of 36.3 percent to 485,500 vehicles, compared to Hyundai's growth of 20 percent to 646,000 units.
Volkswagen, who pushed themselves hard in the US with a new factory and the new Jetta and Passat sedans, saw Jetta sales jump by 54 percent for the year. However, their general car sales increased by a more modest 26.3 percent, for a total of 324,400 vehicles. The fight for the most sold premium brand ended with a victory for BMW. They outsold Daimler with 303,500 MINIs, BMW cars and SUVs compared to Mercedes-Benz, Maybach and Smart's combined 272,100 units. BMW sales grew by 14.2 percent while Daimler sales by 17.7 percent. Lexus, who lead that category for the last few years, ended only in third place.
For exotic sports car brands, Ferrari sales declined in December by 8.6 percent to 138 cars but grew for the year by 10 percent to 1,701 units. However, its stable mate, Maserati increased its sales by 20 percent to 2,322 cars. 2011 was definitely a year to remember for the auto industry, especially Chrysler. In a world economy that's still in a fragile state, auto sales, particularly in the US, were one of the very few bright spots.