ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Brands sold by America's 9,600 international nameplate franchises accounted for 55.1% of all new vehicles sold in the United States in December, down from 56.2% a month earlier, the American International Automobile Dealers Association (AIADA) reported last week. For the year, international brands sold 55.6% of all vehicles purchased in the United States.

AutoData Corp. reports that the seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) for December was 17.9 million, down from 18.2 million in the prior-year period. Total industry unit deliveries, unadjusted for business days and including all brands, decreased 5.2% compared to last December and 1.8% from 2016, marking the first year since the Great Recession that auto sales did not grow. International nameplate brands were down 6% from December 2016 and 0.69% when compared to the whole of 2016.

"Dealers are entering 2018 with an optimistic outlook," said AIADA President Cody Lusk. "Despite the expected slip in sales, the auto market remains healthy and consumer interest in new vehicles, particularly trucks and crossovers, is high."

Leading the way for international brands in December was Audi (up 16.3% from last December), Hyundai (up 1.8%), and Mercedes-Benz (up 9.4%). Subaru's sales rose 0.3% in December to 63,342 units, making 2017 its best year ever with a total of 647,956 vehicles sold. Despite being down 7% in sales compared to December 2016, American Honda (including the Acura division) set an annual sales record in 2017 of 1,641,429 vehicles sold. That’s up 0.2% from 2016.

Light trucks continued to drive demand last month, rising 4.3% as a segment for the year, while cars continued to lag, slipping 10.9%.

International auto sales in the United States totaled 882,393 units in December, up from 782,288 units in November and 748,614 units in October. The sales total, however, was down from 939,324 vehicles sold in December 2016. Asian brands accounted for 44.7% of the December auto market, down from 45.9% in November. Overall, Asian nameplate dealers sold 715,897 vehicles in December, a 7.3% drop from December 2016.

European brands sold 166,496 units in December, up from 143,065 units in November and 130,171 units in October. That total, however, was down slightly from the 166,903 units sold in December 2016. European brands accounted for 10.4% of the December U.S. auto market, up just 0.1% from November. Overall sales for European brands were down 0.2% from last December but up 2% for the year.