Investors bet on pickups and SUVs despite low United States sales

Ford shares gain on upbeat December sales

But even with the decline, the industry sold 17.2 million cars, making 2017 the fourth-best sales year in USA history, after 2000, 2015 and 2016, according to Kelley Blue Book.

Larger vehicles are grabbing even more market share from sedans, which Kelley estimated made up just 36 percent of the US market previous year, down from 50 percent in 2012.

Ford's sales fell 1.1 percent to 2.6 million compared to 2016, but it reported a surprise increase in December, fueled in part by the continued success of the F-Series pickups and other large vehicles.

Fiat Chrysler's sales fell 8%.

Auto sales in the United States fell by 2 percent in 2017, the first decline in seven years. Volkswagen said its sales in the USA rose by 5 percent. Sales dropped 5 percent to 1.6 million last month.

Charlie Chesbrough, chief economist at Cox Automotive, owner of the Autotrader online vehicle market and Kelley Blue Book auto appraisal service, stated the group expects 2018 sales to hit 16.7 million units and increasing rate of interest are one of the industry's obstacles this year as they increase month-to-month vehicle payments.

While overall results were unimpressive, sales of trucks and sport utility vehicles remained robust at year end. While that included a 15.2% decline in vehicle sales from 2016, it also included a record year for sales of SUVS at the USA carmaker.

"In 2017, we had solid GDP growth and good news on employment, wages and consumer sentiment, which helped deliver very strong retail sales for the auto industry", said Mustafa Mohatarem, GM's chief economist.

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The all-electric Chevrolet Bolt also had its best month ever in December, GM said, but Cadillac sales dropped by 29% as its rivals in the luxury segment unloaded some heavy marketing firepower.

Ford's US sales rose 0.9 percent in December, fueled by 89,385 F-Series pickup trucks.

Despite the usual year-end push to get vehicles out the door, most automakers endured tough sledding in December.

A promising note for FCA in December was that Alfa Romeo sold 2,034 units were up significantly compared with the same month a year ago and recorded its strongest monthly sales of 2017 and actually outsold the Fiat brand. Fiat Chrysler's sales fell 11 percent, while Toyota's sales dropped 8 percent and Nissan's sales were down 9.5 percent.

And, the United States auto industry continues to enjoy strong demand for larger vehicles, including SUVs, pickup trucks and "crossover" models.

Ford says, even with bitter temperatures and snow, it saw strong sales in the last 10 days of December.

Analysts think sales will fall a bit further this year.

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