Top 10 Best-Selling Cars: December 2012

Cliff, shmiff. Holiday shoppers brushed aside concerns about impending fiscal doom (which Congress averted, sort of) to drive new-car sales to their best December since 2007. Pickups trucks remained atop December's sales pyramid, with Chrysler's Ram trucks moving up a notch. That's typical for the month, especially amid a sustained recovery for the truck-reliant construction industry.

On the car side, Santa left Honda a nice present under the tree. A substantially restyled 2013 Honda Civic sedan hit dealerships in November and sales for the nameplate shot up 61.2% in December; it secured Honda's workhorse compact the title of America's best-selling car for the second month in a row. The Toyota Camry held the spot for the first 10 months of the year.

In fact, Honda sales overall shot up 26.2% over an inventory-strapped December 2011, thanks to strong demand for the Civic and redesigned Accord — two models that regularly account for nearly half of the automaker's sales. Toyota gained 9% while Nissan fell 1.6% as its redesigned Altima dropped 7.7%. The Altima boasts impressive EPA mileage, but drivability and cabin issues left the car in last place in's $26,000 Midsize Sedan Showdown.

The Detroit Three gained 5.1%, with overall sales up 7.9% for the year. All three reported their best Decembers since the recession — Ford since 2006 and Chrysler and GM since 2007. With higher incentives but much lower dealer inventory, the Ford Focus saw sales skyrocket 58.3%. Sales for the popular Escape, meanwhile, plummeted 21.3% as shoppers found few holiday incentives on the redesigned 2013 versus a heavily discounted 2012 last December.

Replacements for Hurricane Sandy-damaged cars may have added 50,000 sales in December, Credit Suisse estimated late last month. That's a relative blip on the radar and likely amounting to less than 0.4% of December totals when the final tallies come in. Transaction prices ebbed to just over $32,000 — their lowest point since April 2012 — thanks to rising dealer and automaker discounts, according to CNW Marketing Research. But they're still 6.4% higher than December 2011. What's more, prices for late-model used cars slid for the sixth straight month, driving more shoppers back to the used side. CNW reckoned last month that December could cap the best year for used-car sales since 2007.

If those factors created headwinds for new-car sales, you wouldn't have known it. Sales totals from the seven largest automakers increased 7.2% for the month, with 2012 totals up 12.9%. Check out December's best-sellers below. Oh, and if you read this morning's Fastest and Slowest Selling Cars, Acura notched 2,485 sales for the Civic-based ILX in December, making it the best-selling sedan in the brand's lineup. But the red-hot Civic still outsold it more than 13 to 1.

December's Fastest- and Slowest-Selling Cars
Top 10 Best-Selling Cars: November 2012
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Dodge Ford F150 Ford Focus RAM 1500 Nissan Toyota Nissan Altima Honda CR-V Honda Accord Honda Toyota Camry Honda Civic Toyota Matrix Ford Chevrolet Toyota Corolla Best Sellers Ford Super Duty Industry Social Reader

Senior Consumer Affairs Editor Kelsey Mays likes quality, reliability, safety and practicality. But he also likes a fair price.  Email Kelsey