Total retail sales fell 4% year over year in December to 176,164 units and fleet sales jumped 16.8% to 65,885 units. According Autodata, 2017 full-year sales hit 17.23 million units, down almost 2 per cent from an all-time United States record of 17.55 million units in 2016.
In 2016, the US auto industry set another record, marking the seventh straight year that auto sales improved year-over-year. Fiat Chrysler's sales fell 8 percent.
Total Ford SUV sales rose 8% year over year in December, with the Explorer seeing a gain of 33.3% and the Edge gaining 7.6%.
Sales of the Ford F-Series pickups rose 2.1% year over year in December to 89,385 units, and F-Series transaction prices rose $3,400 year over year to $47,800. Sales dropped 5 percent to 1.6 million last month. Nissan's 2017 sales also came in at 1.6 million, a 1.9 percent increase from the prior year. Consumers like the extra storage space, higher seating position and improved fuel economy of car-based SUVs, also called crossovers.
Investors were pleased GM had cut its inventory of unsold vehicles - a concern for the industry earlier in 2017 - at the end of December to 63 days supply unsold vehicles, beating its target of about 70 days supply. For the year, the company reported good news with total sales for 2017 increasing by 5.2% compared with 2016.
"It's still a buoyant industry and the underlying factors that drive it are still very positive", said Mark LaNeve, Ford Motor Co.'s US sales chief. Ford saw a decline of 0.9 percent, and Toyota was down 0.6 percent.
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A few automakers say luxury sales have struggled. But most other automakers saw declines.
For December, Ford reported an increase of 0.9% year over year to 242,049 Ford and Lincoln vehicles, compared with December 2016 sales of 239,854. Ford's sales were up 1 percent in December as its new large SUVs hit the market, and Hyundai's sales rose 2 percent. Fiat Chrysler's sales fell 11 percent, while Toyota's sales dropped 8 percent and Nissan's sales were down 9.5 percent.
Analysts think sales will fall a bit further this year.
- PILING ON THE DEALS: New vehicle prices hit a record a year ago, averaging $36,113 as buyers bought bigger SUVs and added more safety and infotainment features, Kelley Blue Book said. Volkswagen's dropped 19 percent.
The winning streak "was the result of pent-up demand after the recession that's finally just running out", said Tim Fleming, an analyst at Kelley Blue Book.