U.S. auto sales drop in 2017

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

"That's real money to consumers", said Charlie Chesbrough, a senior economist with Cox Automotive, which owns AutoTrader.com and other car-buying sites. Sales were hit by lower sales to vehicle rental companies.

Ford's overall sales increased by 0.9% in December, but the automaker, which is more and more dependent than ever on the success of its trucks and sport-utes, saw full-year sales drop 1.1% led by a 14.2% decline in auto sales. The company also set a new annual sales record of 226,511 vehicles, a jump of 7.8% compared with all of 2016.

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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.

For the 36th straight year, Ford's F-Series pickup truck remained the top-selling vehicle in the country.

All major automakers had been projected to report declining sales to wrap up the market's first down year since 2009, when GM and Chrysler went bankrupt. For the year, Toyota division reported sales of 2,129,383 vehicles, a 0.5% increase. Through November, Mercedes had sold 332,990 vehicles; BMW was far behind, battling it out with Lexus for second place. LaNeve said mainstream brands are getting so luxurious that many buyers don't feel the need to step up to a luxury label. Unlike previous years, however, setting that record came down to the wire and required heavy incentive spending from the automakers. But there will still be good deals, especially on slow-selling vehicles like midsize sedans.

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Sales of the Lincoln brand slipped by 17% year over year in December as sales of Lincoln cars tumbled 25.5%.

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

General Motors was the top seller but had a drop of 1.4 percent. Fiesta sales fell by 3% and Fusion sales fell 8.8% year over year. The GM plant in Oshawa is being repurposed to start producing GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverdo trucks starting this month. GM's sales fell 3 percent.

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Volkswagen of America Inc. reported an 18.7% drop in sales in December, in spite of strong SUV results mentioned earlier.

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