With automakers reporting their full year and December sales on Thursday, analysts said the industry likely outperformed their original expectations despite concerns about cooling global economy and rising interest rates.

Low unemployment, tax cuts and cheaper gas prices paved the way for the industry to deliver another strong year.

The industry appears to have achieved its fourth straight year above 17 million vehicles.   Americans are buying SUVs, crossovers and pickup trucks at a steady pace, choosing roomier rides over cramped cars.  Here's more from USA Today.