DETROIT >> November used to be a slow month for U.S. car sales. Not anymore.
Black Friday promotions — some of which began well before Thanksgiving — were expected to push last month's sales to near-record levels. Car buying site Edmunds.com predicted sales of new cars and trucks will hit 1.33 million, eclipsing the previous November record set in 2001.
General Motors' sales rose 1.5 percent over last November, while Toyota and Fiat Chrysler's each saw 3 percent sales gains. Hyundai's sales jumped 12 percent, while Nissan's were up 4 percent. Ford's sales were flat.
Honda's sales fell 5 percent, hurt by lower CR-V sales. But the biggest sales declines were at Volkswagen. VW's U.S. sales plummeted almost 25 percent, hurt by the company's admission that its diesel vehicles cheated on emissions tests.
November was a notoriously slow sales month until about five years ago, when car dealers joined other retailers in promoting Black Friday, according to Edmunds analyst Jessica Caldwell. Now, like Amazon, Wal-Mart and others, dealers started promoting "Black Friday" deals as early as Halloween. Jeep offered zero percent financing for up to 75 months. GM teased savings of up to 20 percent of for its Buick, Chevrolet and GMC brands. Hyundai offered an extra $500 on the Sonata sedan between Nov. 20 and Nov. 30.
Ford's U.S. sales chief Mark LaNeve said sales got progressively stronger as November progressed, and the last day of the month was one of the best days this year.
Deals can be dangerous for the auto industry because they cut into profits and lower vehicles' resale value. Incentives have been creeping upward since 2011; in November, they rose an estimated $172 over last year to $3,066 per vehicle, according to the car buying site TrueCar.com.
But Eric Lyman, vice president for industry insights at TrueCar, says the gradual increase isn't a worrisome trend for the industry. For one thing, companies are making more profit per vehicle than they used to because they're selling more SUVs and trucks. The average sale price of a vehicle last month was $32,966, up 1 percent from the previous month.
Automakers are also trying to capture as many sales as they can in the boom years before sales inevitably slow. Rising interest rates, higher gas prices and other factors are all expected to stall auto sales sometime in the next few years.
"It's kind of like, make hay while the sun shines," Lyman said.
And the sun is certainly shining. Last week, sales forecasting firm LMC Automotive said sales are now likely to reach a record 17.5 million in 2015.
For November, automakers said:
• GM's sales rose 1.5 percent to 229,296. Chevrolet and Cadillac brand sales were up but fell at Buick and GMC. Sales of GM's best-seller, the Silverado pickup, rose 5 percent.
• Toyota's sales rose 3 percent to 189,517. Sales of the RAV4 SUV jumped nearly 30 percent; Prius hybrids dropped 10 percent.