U.S. automakers close out record year

U.S. automakers had a record year in 2015.

Figures released by Autodata showed that 17.47 million vehicles were sold during 2015. USA Today reported that this was the biggest sales year on record for the auto industry, with 2015 sales surpassing the previous record 17.35 million vehicles sold in 2000.

The source attributed the strong market to low unemployment, cheap credit, reduced gas prices, warm weather and high consumer confidence.

The Big 3 automakers all had a profitable year. General Motors sold a total of 3.1 million vehicles, a 5 percent increase from 2014; Fiat-Chrysler sold 2.2 million vehicles, a 7 percent increase; and Ford sold 2.6 million vehicles, a 5 percent increase, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Truck and sports utility vehicles performed the strongest over the year. USA Today reported that the small SUV was the largest vehicle category in 2015 and reached a 13.9 percent market share.

"The segment is in demand with both baby boomers and Millennials both looking for increased utility. We think this is a long-term trend," said Erich Merkle, sales analyst at Ford, in an interview with the source.

Pickup truck sales also boomed, with 780,354 vehicles sold during the year, up 3.5 percent from 2014.

December sales topped off the record-breaking year. GM registered a 5.7 percent sales growth during the month, Fiat Chrysler grew 12.6 percent and Ford rose 8.3 percent. 

Crossover vehicles like the Jeep Renegade had strong sales in December, USA Today reported. The most popular vehicle in the country was the Ford F-series pickup, which saw a 14.6 percent boost in sales during the month.

Industry analysts are watching to see if interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve will impact auto sales in the coming year.