Top 10 Best-Selling Cars: December 2014

If kids spent December piling into the loot from Santa, parents spent it piling into the trucks at their local dealership. Detroit's full-size pickups led the month's top sellers, followed in fourth place by Honda's popular SUV, the CR-V. It received a substantial update for 2015, and three months after it hit dealerships, demand is still strong. Despite no big incentives and comparatively little inventory — 34 days' supply in December versus 67 days a year ago, per Automotive News — shoppers lifted the CR-V past perennial midsize sedan favorites.

Related: December's Fastest- and Slowest-Selling Cars

It was a trend writ large among all SUVs. Excluding luxury models, small crossovers gained about 12 percent in December. Big three-row crossovers and full-size, truck-based SUVs piled on about 15 percent apiece. Falling fuel prices all month long helped: Between the final helping of Thanksgiving leftovers and the final chorus of "Auld Lang Syne," a gallon of regular gas dropped some 50 cents nationwide, according to AAA. As of Jan. 2, it averaged just $2.23 per gallon across the country — $1.09 cheaper than it was a year ago.

That bolstered pickup sales, but not for the truck you'd think. Ford's redesigned 2015 F-150 trickled into dealerships in December, but it's still in short supply, accounting for less than 10 percent of new F-150 inventory on F-Series sales ebbed (the F-150 accounts for about two-thirds of that), but pickup shoppers snapped up Ram and Chevrolet Silverado trucks. Both had sales gains of more than 30 percent, and neither one did that with big year-over-year incentives.

It wasn't just gas prices that lifted the tide. New-home construction continued to soar, with housing starts at sustained rates not seen since 2008, according to U.S. Census data. Put it all together, and full-size pickups gained 16.8 percent in December. They closed out the year up around 7 percent.

Shoppers also paid plenty of attention to sedans. The Nissan Altima boomed 30.3 percent in December despite similar year-over-year incentives and virtually no more discontinued Altima coupes. Compact-car shoppers drove the Toyota Corolla to a 33.5 percent gain, albeit versus a weak December 2013. Incentives played little part.

See a theme? Overall prices edged up last month. Incentives actually rose about 3.5 percent across the industry in December, according to data, but shoppers also ponied up the cash for pricier vehicles — like trucks and SUVs. In fact, 13 of December's 19 fastest selling cars were SUVs or trucks, according to Thus, despite a year-over-year uptick for incentives, average transaction prices in December rose about 5 percent. That reverses a trend of falling transaction prices through much of this year. It's too early to tell how 2015 will pan out in terms of new-car prices, but it could be a year where new cars get more expensive once again.

Here are the top 10 best-selling cars in December. Stay tuned to find out the best-selling cars of 2014. photo by Evan Sears

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