Auto sales in Canada and the U.S. ended 2014 on a high note, driven by lower gas prices, higher demand for trucks and strong dealer incentives.
In Canada, General Motors said it finished out the year with a 6 per cent increase in vehicle sales, driven by a strong December with a 13 per cent increase.
GM dealers sold 249,800 vehicles last year, the Detroit-based automaker said Monday. Its dealers include Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac.
Other automakers are expected to report later in the day.
For the final month, GM said car sales were up 22.9 per cent, to 5,880, while truck sales rose 9.1 per cent, to 13,367, the company said.
For the year, GM truck sales rose 6.2 per cent while car sales were up 6.5 per cent for the year.
Canadian auto sales were already on track in November to exceed all of last year’s total sales, driven by strong demand for light trucks.
In the U.S., Americans headed to car dealers in droves in December, buoyed by a resurging economy, holiday sales, cheap gasoline and a love affair with pickup trucks, Canadian Press reports.
Full-year U.S. auto sales are expected to hit 16.5 million vehicles for 2014, up 6 per cent from 2013, and their highest level since 2006, analysts predicted.
Fiat Chrysler, Nissan, Honda and General Motors all reported strong December and annual U.S. sales early Monday, with Nissan and Honda hitting record numbers for the year.
Ford faltered during the year but remained the top-selling brand in the U.S.
Analysts also predict Americans will continue to buy cars in big numbers in 2015, hitting 17 million for the first time since 2005.
The record was set in 2000 at 17.3 million vehicles.
Kelley Blue Book expected U.S. December sales to be up nearly 10 per cent over the previous year to 1.5 million, thanks to holiday promotions and milder-than-usual weather.
“Automakers should be grinning as they close the books this year,” said John Krafcik, president of the TrueCar.com auto buying site.
Fiat Chrysler led the way with a 16 per cent increase over 2013, selling just over 2 million cars and trucks.
Nissan and Honda also reported gains in December with both Japanese automakers setting sales records.
Pickup truck sales rebounded for nearly all automakers through 2014 as small businesses regained confidence and gas prices fell, making the trucks more attractive.
Sales of the Jeep Cherokee small SUV were seven times larger than last year, reaching nearly 179,000.
SUVs of all sizes were also hot sellers last year as buyers went for higher seating positions and better cargo-hauling space.
Low interest rates and loosening credit standards are drawing buyers.
People continued to buy more expensive vehicles. TrueCar reports that the average sales price in 2014 hit more than $33,000 U.S., up 1.9 per cent from a year ago.
— With files from Canadian Press