Chuck Keim believes new car and light truck sales will end the year on a high note at his Summit County dealership.

“This is probably the best December we’ve had in ages,” said Keim, sales manager for 17 years at Doug Chevrolet in Green. “We’re just kicking butt on new cars.”

New vehicle sales through November throughout Northeast Ohio are running ahead of last year’s pace, according to figures from the Northeast Ohio Automobile Dealers Association and the Greater Cleveland Automobile Dealers’ Association.

Regional sales for November, though, were down slightly compared to November 2011.

Keim said General Motors in particular is boosting incentives to get more shoppers into showrooms this month to clear out any remaining 2012 models as well as the new 2013 cars and trucks.

“GM is overstocked,” Keim said. “So they’re throwing all incentives on the ground” to attract buyers, he said. Doug Chevrolet is seeing benefits from new “Green Auto Mile” — Arlington Road — promotions and its $2 million newly remodeled dealership, he said.

General Motors this month noted that the made-in-Lordstown Chevrolet Cruze sales last month were up 27 percent nationally from a year ago with incentives lower than the industry average. The compact sedan, introduced in 2011, gets up to 42 miles per gallon on the highway in its Eco form; highway mileage ranges from 36 to 38 in other incarnations, according to EPA estimates. City gas mileage ranges from 22 to 28.

While Cruze sales are up nationally, they are down slightly in Northeast Ohio. (Chevrolet historically is the second best-selling make in Northeast Ohio, trailing top-seller Ford.)

When gas prices rise, “Cruzes fly off the lot,” Keim said. When gas prices drop — as is happening now — sales of larger vehicles such as the Chevy Silverado pickup truck strengthen, he said.

The Cruze was the seventh best-selling new model in Summit County last month with 40 sales, down two from a year ago. Sales since Jan. 1 total 453, down 84, or 15.6 percent, from 537 for the same period in 2011, according to figures from the Northeast Ohio Automobile Dealers Association.

Cruze sales likely were hurt this year by subprime leases offered on competing import vehicles, Keim said. General Motors held off on offering similar leases but now has responded with a strong lease program, he said.

The Ford Focus small car was the top selling new vehicle in Summit County last month with 55 sold, up 20 or 57.1 percent from 35 in November 2011.

The best-selling new model in the county since Jan. 1 is the Ford Escape small SUV at 713, up 84 or 13.4 percent from 629 for the same period in 2011, the Akron-based dealer association figures show.

New model sales overall at 1,614 in November for Summit County were down slightly, 19, from 1,633 in November 2011.

Sales since Jan. 1 stood at 20,069, up 573 or 2.9 percent, from 19,496 for the same period a year ago in Summit County, according to the Northeast Ohio Automobile Dealers Association.

Ford leads all makes in new vehicle sales in Summit County for the year through November with 3,385, down 17 or 0.5 percent from 3,402 a year ago. Chevrolet remained in second place with 2,116 sales since Jan. 1, down just 2 from 2,118 for the same period a year ago.

The Greater Cleveland Automobile Dealers’ Association reported that November sales overall in its 21-county region were flat, while sales for the year were up 4 percent.

There were 15,498 new cars and light trucks sold in November, down 78, or 0.5 percent, from 15,576 a year ago, the association reported.

Sales since Jan. 1 in the region totaled 193,237, up a bit more than 4 percent from 185,757 for the same period in 2011, the Cleveland dealers’ group reported.

The association’s president, Louis A. Vitantonio Jr., said he expects a “strong finish” for sales in December.

“Shopping between Christmas and New Year’s has become a very important week for the auto industry,” Vitantonio said in a statement. “Manufacturers, dealers, and sales people are anxious to clear out inventory in anticipation of new models arriving. In addition, virtually every manufacturer has some sort of year-end sales event.”

Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or jmackinnon@thebeaconjournal.com.