General Motors, fresh off its initial public offering, and Ford Motor both posted solid November vehicle sales December 1, while rival Toyota's sales slipped.
GM sales were up 11% year over year, while Ford came through with a nearly 20% rise. Toyota's sales eased 3.2%.
The overall numbers are an encouraging sign that the recovery is taking hold, and consumers are once again confident enough to purchase big ticket items, said Jesse Toprak, vice president of industry trends at TrueCar.com.
When comparison is limited to the four brands GM (GM) still sells -- Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac -- sales rose 21% over last year. The 11% figure includes sales for discontinued brands such as Saturn and Pontiac.
The increase in sales was roughly in line with analyst estimates.
"November sales results are consistent with our expectations and show that the plan we laid out earlier this year to steadily grow in the U.S. market is working," Don Johnson, vice president, U.S. sales operations said in a statement.
While sales increased over 2009, the four continuing brands suffered a 8% decline from October sales, a drop that was expected.
Full-size pickups and SUVs posted the biggest year-over-year gains, with sales of Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain and Cadillac SRX SUVs increasing a combined 56%.
The automaker, just 17 months removed from a bankruptcy filing and federal bailout, raised $20.1 billion in a mid-November IPO that allowed the Treasury Department to reduce its stake in the company by half.
When excluding the Volvo brand from the year-ago sales, Ford's sales increased 24%. Ford has since sold the unit to Chinese automaker Geely.
Ford sales declined 6.8% from October, a steeper drop than the 2% loss forecast by sales trackers Edmunds.com and the 3.8% slip forecast by TrueCar.com.
Ford's truck line-up performed best, increasing 34% over a year ago, while Fiesta, Focus and Fusion models led growth in car sales.
"The better news for Ford and GM is they had balanced increases across different categories of vehicles, which is something that domestic automakers have traditionally had trouble doing," Toprak said.
Toyota (TM) posted a 3.2% decline in sales versus one year ago, slightly more than analysts predicted. Compared to October, sales declined 11.1%.
That number leaves the automaker mired in third place in terms of U.S. sales, showing that it has yet to fully recover from the recall crisis of earlier this year. Toyota started 2010 a solid No. 2 in U.S. sales, ahead of Ford.
Rival Japanese automaker Nissan topped analyst expectations by posting a 26.8% rise in sales from the prior year, and a 2.3% increase from October.
Sales soared 46.4% at Korean automaker Hyundai Motor, which includes both the Hyundai and Kia brands, but fell 8.8% from October levels.