McLEAN, Va.The Detroit 3 auto manufacturers — General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC — held a key inventory advantage over their competitors, which led to higher U.S. new-car and light-truck sales in December, according to Paul Taylor, chief economist of the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA).

“The Detroit 3 dealers had nearly 50 percent of the inventory available for sale during December, and collectively enjoyed sales increases of more than 12 percent for the month,” Taylor said. “The inventory advantage for manufacturers based in North America will provide sales momentum during the first quarter of 2012.”

Volkswagen made significant U.S. sales gains in December as well. Taylor said that in order to compete with the Detroit 3 brands, auto manufacturers in Asia and Europe need to focus on the growing U.S. light vehicle market by accelerating their efforts to rebuild inventories of cars and light trucks at U.S. dealerships.

“Looking ahead, aging light vehicles currently on the road at more than 10.7 years old, affordable credit and added incentives from manufacturers struggling to regain market share will drive stronger light vehicle sales as 2012 unfolds,” Taylor said. “Interest rates remain at historic lows and cash incentives are likely to be a part of several automaker efforts to regain market share.”

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