DETROIT (WWJ) – It looks like a strong December helped the auto industry end 2014 with great momentum heading into the New Year.

“2014 was the  year that the industry and GM put the recession in the rear view mirror,” said General Motors spokesman Jim Cain.

A 43 percent jump in pickup sales pushed GM’s December sales up 19 percent.  Despite a record year for recalls, General Motors sales rose 5 percent for 2014, with all brands–except Cadillac–posting sales increase.

“Consumers are feeling a lot better, the interest rates are low, and the fuel prices have just been nothing short of phenomenal,” said Cain.

Fiat-Chrysler (FCA-US) posted a 20 percent sales increase in December, to close the books on a year that saw their sales up 16 percent.

“Our best December sales in a decade pushed our full-year sales over the 2-million unit threshold for our best annual sales since 2006,” said Reid Bigland, Head of U.S. Sales. “Last year marked our fifth-consecutive year of annual sales growth in the U.S., and once again, we were the fastest-growing automaker in the country.”

Sales for the full industry rose 11 percent in December, with total sales for the year up 6 percent.

Ford, which has been dealing with the changeover to the new F-150, posted its first sales increase in several months, up one percent.

“Fusion and Escape posted record years, and our newest products – including Mustang and Transit and Lincolns – are attracting strong customer demand,” said John Felice, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service. “Demand for the all-new F-150 also is very high, and it now is the fastest-turning vehicle in Ford showrooms, averaging just five days on dealer lots in December.”

It was Ford’s best December in nine years.  For the year, Ford sales were flat from 2013 to 2014.

“Ford’s transition to its all-new F-150 really held the company back in 2014, keeping the automaker flat for the year while the market was up more than 6 percent,” said Kelly Blue Book analyst Karl Brauer. “However, the automaker is well positioned for 2015, with the aluminum F-150 hitting full production in the coming months, growing interest in its recently-introduced Transit van and an all-new Explorer set to be released. Lincoln also is showing signs of life, with the all-new MKC and updated Navigator perfectly positioned to benefit from continued demand in SUVs.”

Toyota sales rose 13 percent in December, 6 percent for the full year.

Nissan saw its sales up 7 percent in December and 11 percent for the year.  Honda sales rose one percent for the year, which was still good enough to make 2014 Honda’s best sales year ever.

December sales were helped by a number of year end and holiday promotions, as well as stable gas prices. The year actually started out slowly, with rough weather in much of the country. A strong spring selling season gave way to a stronger summer and fall.

Analysts expect full year 2014 sales to be around 16.5 million units, which would make it the best year since 2006. They now expect the industry to top 17 million sales in 2015.

“What a way to close out this blockbuster year for the industry,” said John Krafcik, president of TrueCar. “With the strongest demand in a decade, gains in highly profitable segments and modest incentive growth, automakers should be grinning as they close the books this year.”

Connect with Jeff Gilbert
Email: jdgilbert@cbs.com
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Twitter: @jefferygilbert

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