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Key Takeaways From US Auto Sales in December

- By Mayank Marwah

The U.S. auto sales outperformed analysts' expectations, for December and the whole year, in spite of rising concerns about a cooling global economy and mounting interest rates. However, low unemployment, tax cuts and cheaper gas prices made sure that the U.S. auto industry had a strong year.

Here's a detailed look at the performance of U.S. and other automakers.

Performance of U.S. automakers

General Motors (GM) has stopped reporting monthly sales figures but has instead shifted to reporting quarterly sales, which came in at 785,229 vehicles, down 2.7% year-over-year. Fourth-quarter sales dropped 3.2% for Chevrolet, 2.7% for Cadillac and 13.7% for Buick. By contrast, GMC brand experienced 3.5% sales growth during the quarter. SUVs had an active market during the quarter as sales of Chevy Equinox and Traverse rose 26.4% (98,239 vehicles) and 14.1% (39,536 units).

Ford (NYSE:F) sales in December plummeted 8.8% to 220,774 vehicles, while retail sales dipped 4.8% to 167,705 units and fleet sales plunged 19.5% to 53,069 units. The Blue Oval said that its passenger car sales slipped 27.8% year-on-year, which is why the company will soon stop manufacturing its Focus, Fusion and Taurus models.

SUV sales decreased 4.4% year-on-year. The F-Series pickup truck, which is the most popular U.S. model, saw sales decline 1.8% to 87,772 units.

Unlike Ford and General Motors, Fiat Chrysler (FCA) witnessed sales growth of 14% year-over-year to 196,520 units. The sales gain was attributable to robust sales of Jeep brand all through the year (up 17%). Monthly sales of Jeeps amounted to 80,449 units. Further, Ram brand sales came in at 68,195 in December, which reflected mammoth 36.7% sales growth. On the other hand, sales of the company's top seller, Ram pickup, shot up by 34% to 60,155 units.

Performance of other automakers

Toyota (TM)'s sales in December amounted to 220,910 vehicles, down 0.9%. Toyota brand registered a 1.1% sales decline in December. By contrast, luxury Lexus brand recorded sales gain of 0.2% during the same period. The company said that its passenger car sales plummeted 15.1% while the sales of SUVs, crossovers and pickups surged a combined 8% in December.

Nissan (NSANY) sales climbed 7.6% year-over-year to 148,720 units, thanks to strong sales of Nissan brand (up 7.2% year-on-year) and Infiniti brand (up 10.3%). On the other hand, the company set a new record for Nissan Rogue SUV in terms of volume sold. Rogue SUV sales amounted to 42,523 units, up 5.9% in December. Rogue SUV sales almost surpassed the combined sales of Altima, Sentra and Murano, whose sales totaled 42,664 units.

Honda Motor Co. (HMC) witnessed sales growth of 3.9% to 155,115 units in December. Unlike most other automakers, the company recorded a 4.2% uptick in the passenger car sales, while the combined sales of SUVs, crossovers and pickups rose 2.1%. Sales jumped 11.4% for Acura brand and 29.4% for Accord sedan. In contrast, sales of Civic compact car decreased 16% to 26,284 units. However, that did not affect the company's monthly growth.

Last word

This year, as in the previous three years, the industry had managed to sell more than 17 million vehicles. However, analysts do not forsee this year being as smooth as the last several after taking into account the stock market volatility and rising interest rates.

Disclosure: I do not hold any position in the stocks mentioned.

This article first appeared on GuruFocus.