By Anne Steele and Adrienne Roberts

A spate of Black Friday deals and two extra selling days lifted U.S. light-vehicle volumes 3.5% higher in November compared with a year earlier, raising the possibility annual sales will eclipse a record 2015 performance.

Five of the top six auto makers selling in the U.S. posted gains, with demand driven by low gasoline prices that have increased the appetite for light trucks and sport utility vehicles. Buyers took advantage of the deepest discounts in the industry's history, according to J.D. Power estimates.

The average transaction hit a record $31,719, driven by the higher sticker prices attached to pickups, crossover wagons and SUVs, the firm said. Auto makers dished out nearly $4,000 per vehicle in discounts and rebates, however, equaling nearly 11% of the selling price compared to 9.4% a year ago.

While the industry is on track to equal 2015's 17.5 million in vehicle sales, growth has stalled after six consecutive years of substantial annual gains. The seasonally adjusted annual sales pace hit 17.87 million, well below the 18.25 million mark set last November.

The economy and end of the presidential election helped keep sales brisk. "It's probably no coincidence that this month's strong sales performance come at the same time that the Dow Jones [Industrial] Average reached an all-time high," analyst Jessica Caldwell said. "Shoppers have more confidence in the economy than they had just a month ago."

General Motors Co. reported the biggest gains among major auto makers, selling 252,644 vehicles, or 10.2% more than the same period in 2015. Ford Motor Co. posted a 5.1% increase and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV recorded a 14% skid amid slightly lower retail sales and a large pullback in fleet sales.

Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. each reported sales increases of at least 4%. Volkswagen AG, meanwhile, reported a 15.7% increase after a string of declines that came in the wake of an emissions-cheating scheme being disclosed in late 2015.

Write to Anne Steele at

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 02, 2016 02:47 ET (07:47 GMT)

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