Auto sales in the United States fell by 2 percent in 2017, the first decline in seven years.
Ford Motor reported Wednesday that its new vehicle sales fell 1 percent, as did those of General Motors. Fiat Chrysler reported a decline of 8 percent compared with 2016. Volkswagen said its sales in the U.S. rose by 5 percent.
But even with the decline, the industry sold 17.2 million cars, making 2017 the fourth-best sales year in U.S. history, after 2000, 2015 and 2016, according to Kelley Blue Book.
For the 36th straight year, Ford’s F-Series pickup truck remained the top-selling vehicle in the country. Mercedes-Benz was the top selling luxury brand, even with a sales decline of 1 percent.
Analysts expect auto sales to fall in 2018 because of higher interest rates. But they say the vehicles themselves are to blame for some of the decline. The newer models are more durable so drivers are holding on to their cars longer. The average age of vehicles on the road has climbed to 11.6 years, up from 8.8 years in 1998.
Despite the decline, the industry remains robust. The average price of a new vehicle reached an all-time high last year of $36,113, as drivers bought bigger SUVs with more sophisticated technology.
“It’s still a buoyant industry and the underlying factors that drive it are still very positive,” Ford’s U.S. sales chief, Mark LaNeve, said.