DETROIT – The Dodge Journey, Ford F-150 and Nissan Rogue flew out of dealer showrooms in December, as pickups and SUVs continued to outsell cars.
Fiat-Chrysler, Nissan and Toyota reported double-digit gains last month as many automakers closed the year on a high note.
“2015 was a standout year for the auto industry,” said Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president and general manager.
The Japanese automaker reported record December sales for the Toyota RAV4 and Toyota Highlander SUVs.
Highlights of 2015 include low gas prices, record levels of leasing and car shoppers’ insatiable appetite for light trucks.
Edmunds.com notes that light trucks (including pickups and SUVs) have outsold cars in each of the last 28 months, with no signs of slowing down.
Edmunds projects that dealers will have sold the largest share of trucks and SUVs in December, almost 60 percent of all new-vehicle sales, more than in any other month on record.
Leases accounted for 29 percent of all new retail sales, the highest level ever.
The average new car transaction price in 2015 was $33,188, up 2.5 percent from $32,386 in 2014.
Edmunds forecasts that there will be 18.1 million new car and truck sales in 2016.
Fiat-Chrysler celebrated a strong finish to 2015, with a December sales increase of 13 percent compared with sales in December 2014.
It was the automaker’s best December sales since it started in business as Chrysler more than 90 years ago.
The Jeep brand proved to be a powerhouse in December, with five Jeep vehicles setting sales records. They are the Jeep Cherokee, Jeep Compass, Jeep Patriot, Jeep Renegade and Jeep Wrangler.
The Dodge Journey SUV turned in its best December sales ever.
Nissan posted a 19 percent December sales increase compared to a year ago. The Nissan Rogue SUV set a December record at 26,479, for an increase of 78 percent.
Ford tallied U.S. December sales of 239,242 vehicles, up 8 percent versus a year ago.
“Strong demand for F-150 contributed to the performance, as F-Series broke through the 85,000-vehicle mark for the first time in a decade,” Ford said in a statement.
Ford said its new SUVs, including the Ford Edge, are “leaving dealer lots in a matter of days.”
Lincoln sales jumped 12 percent on strong performance of the Lincoln MKX SUV.
Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC brands delivered 290,230 vehicles in December, for a sales increase of 6 percent compared to a year ago.
Deliveries of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, which are nearly all 2016 models, were up 41 percent. Sales of the Buick Encore were up 38 percent, a record for the SUV.
Hyundai reported December sales of 63,508 vehicles, with the Hyundai Genesis “achieving its best all-time sales month.”
Edmunds says: Car shoppers making plans for 2016 may want to keep in mind that unemployment is projected to dip to around 4 percent, which traditionally is considered to be “full employment,” according to economists. In addition, despite recent interest rate hikes, auto loan rates may be subsidized by automakers to keep them lower.