DETROIT -

You won't hear Chrysler or its dealers complaining about the weather.

They sold 15,000 new Jeep Cherokees in December while a lot of the SUV and truck sales have been fueled by concern over the harsh winter we're already experiencing.

And it's not just SUVs.

Zaher Bazzi and two friends all test drove new cars in Thursday's snow and are now picking them up -- equipped with all-wheel drive.

"It drove great in the snow. It's perfect for winter and the state," said Bazzi.

The industry sold nearly 15.6 million vehicles in 2013, the best year since 2007. The slower sales in December do not mean the industry rebound is ending, just slowing.

Forecasters are predicting next year will see sales eclipse 16 million, perhaps as high as 16.5 million.

"The same factors as this year, only better -- an improving economy, lower unemployment, friendly credit, pent-up demand. The average car on the road is still 11 years old. There's still a lot of replacement to do," said Michelle Krebs, an analyst for Edmunds.com.

The industry added 75,000 jobs last year and will continue growing. Ford has already announced 5,000 new workers for 2014.

New products will drive showroom traffic. A new Chrysler 200 is coming. Cadillac is adding an ATS coupe. Ford promises a surprise for the North American International Auto Show.

"There were 30-plus new models introduced in 2013 and nearly 60 planned for next year. New product helps generate consumer excitement," said Krebs.

Sales are expected to level off after 2014. We won't go to the heights of 17 to 20 million predicted before, but that's OK. Those levels were fuelled by incentives and are artificial. The industry lost $42 billion that year and we don't want to go back there.
One of the year's biggest success stories was the hit of last year's auto show: The Corvette is back. While December is never a good month for sports cars, Corvette sales were up 120 percent for the month.