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Chicago (AFP) – U.S. auto sales clocked their fastest pace in nearly seven years as holiday deals boosted already strong demand, industry data showed Tuesday.

The auto industry has been steadily climbing out of a deep and painful downturn after the 2008 financial crisis sent sales spiraling to levels not seen in decades.

Improved consumer confidence, economic growth and the need to replace ageing vehicles has fueled growth which accelerated this year.

But the promotions offered on Thanksgiving and “Black Friday” gave sales an unexpectedly big boost in November.

Total industry sales jumped nine percent from November 2012 and hit an annualized pace of 16.4 million vehicles, according to Autodata.

That’s up substantially from the 15.2 million pace set in October and the fastest pace since February 2007.

“Industry sales in November picked up after Thanksgiving contributing to the best sales pace of the year,” said Toyota’s Bill Fay. “Showroom traffic surged over the holiday weekend for Toyota, indicating good momentum we expect to continue through the end of the year and into 2014.”

The strong figures in November weren’t only due to great bargains, General Motors said. Economic factors like a booming stock market, combined with enticing new product offerings, point to sustainable gains.

“We feel very good about the direction of the economy and our own momentum,” GM sales chief Kurt McNeil said in a conference call. “The economy is creating jobs and household wealth. Energy costs are dropping and credit is available and affordable. All of this bodes well for more growth in 2014.”

GM sales were up 14 percent at 212,060, the best November results in six years.

Toyota sales rose 10 percent to 178,044 vehicles in November.

Ford’s sales rose seven percent to 147,021 vehicles while its retail division posted its best November performance since 2004.

Chrysler reported its best November sales since 2007 with a 16 percent jump to 142,275 vehicles.

The third largest U.S. automaker has now racked up 44 consecutive months of sales gains following a painful restructuring under bankruptcy protection.

Nissan’s sales rose 11 percent to 106,528. Korean automaker Hyundai saw a five percent gain to 56,005 while Kia sales grew four percent to 45,411.

Honda was one of the few carmakers to buck the trend as sales fell four percent from the record it set in November 2012 to 116,507 vehicles.

Volkswagen also saw a downturn, with sales dropping 16 percent to 30,727.

Luxury cars were also in demand, with Mercedes up 14 percent at 36,386 units and BMW up a more modest two percent at 31,752.

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