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Chrysler's November sales rise 16 percent, top expectations

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(Reuters) - Chrysler Group LLC said its U.S. vehicle sales in November jumped 16 percent from a year before, beating analysts' expectations.

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Chrysler, an affiliate of Italy's Fiat SpA (FIA.MI: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), said Tuesday that November sales were 142,275, partly on the strength of its new 2014 Jeep Cherokee. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had expected 135,189. Chrysler said it was the best November since 2007, before the auto industry plunged into a deep recession.

Chrysler was the first of the Detroit automakers to report November sales. General Motors Co (GM.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and Ford Motor Co (F.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) will report later in the day, as will foreign brands.

The introduction of the redesigned Cherokee at Chrysler helped push Jeep brand sales to a record 45,415, up 30 percent. Fiat brand sales, however, dropped 15 percent to 3,075, despite the launch of the new Fiat 500L.

Pickup trucks displayed continued appeal, propelling Ram brand sales to 31,255, up 25 percent. Dodge brand sales rose 4 percent to 41,506, while Chrysler brand sales climbed 12 percent to 21,024.

Chrysler said it expects industry sales in November reached an annual rate of 16.3 million, including about 300,000 medium- and heavy-duty trucks.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters had estimated the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate in November, not including the larger trucks, was 15.75 million.

Monthly sales are regarded as an early indicator of the U.S. economy's health. The industry has held up better than the broader economy because of easier access to credit and consumers' need to replace aging vehicles, which now average more than 11 years.

Analysts who closely follow the industry expected November sales rose from 3.6 percent to 6.8 percent as demand returned to "normal" after the 16-day government shutdown hurt October results.

GM and Ford were expected to show gains for November, marked by continued strong end-of-the-year demand for full-size pickup trucks like the Chevrolet Silverado and Ford F-150.

Industry research firm TrueCar.com said average vehicle transaction prices fell slightly in November for the first time in three years as manufacturers continued to clear out supplies of leftover 2013 models with generous incentives averaging more than $2,500 per vehicle.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman and Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick)

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