December sales boomed for U.S. automakers leading experts to believe the auto industry may set an all-time full-year record for vehicle sales.
Heading into December, the industry was teetering on the edge of a new record, after setting the mark at 17.47 million vehicles in 2015.
After early indications of strong results Friday, General Motors projected that industry sales would achieve a record at 17.5 million units for the year.
That would mark the seventh consecutive full-year increase following the Great Recession, which nearly wiped out GM and Chrysler.
Average transaction prices hit an all-time high of $35,309 in December, up 1.5% from a year earlier, according to Kelley Blue Book.
The Detroit automaker soared past analyst expectations, recording U.S. sales growth of 10% in December, compared with a year earlier. The company sold 319,108 vehicles for the month.
Analysts at Edmunds.com and Kelley Blue Book had projected sales growth of 3.1% and 3.7%, respectively.
GM's strong December included an increase of more than 3% in sales to retail customers, which are more profitable than sales to fleet clients, such as rental-car companies.
The company's flagship Chevrolet brand posted an increase of 12.8% to 212,959 vehicles, despite a 13.8% decrease for its most popular vehicle, the Silverado pickup truck.
The GMC brand increased 5.8%, Buick rose 2.8% and Cadillac increased 3.2%.
“We finished 2016 with a strong December, reflecting the continued strength of GM’s U.S. retail and commercial businesses,” Kurt McNeil, GM’s vice president of U.S. sales operations, said in a statement. “We begin 2017 well positioned to continue growing our U.S. retail business, driven by all-new products like the Chevrolet Equinox and Traverse being launched into key, growing U.S. market segments.”