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Fiat Falls Short, KIA Rolls, and Ford's 40 Year Itch

December auto sales told us the American car buyer is not only finding their way back into the showroom, but what they are (or not) buying.

Fiat Falls Short

J-Lo may have shamelessly plugged the 500 on awards show, but all the glitz and glamour couldn't obscure the painful truth. Fiat sales of just under 20,000 in 2011 were not even half the annual goal of 50,000. It'll improve in 2012, but Fiat has a long ways to go in re-establishing itself in the U.S.

KIA is the Rodney Dangerfield of the U.S. auto market.

It gets no respect, despite boosting sales 36% in December. And these guys are not operating off a small base. KIA sold more than 350,000 vehicles last year. For many, Hyundai's lesser hyped cousin is the company cranking about the best value for new car buyers.

Hats off to Ford for doing something it hasn't since 1970. In 2011 it gained share for a third straight year, picking up more than 3% market share. Sure, the stumbles and Toyota, Honda, GM and Chrysler over the last three years all helped Ford to some extent. But make no mistake, Ford's rebound is driven by a far better line-up.

Hats off to Nissan and Audi for posting best sales year ever in the U.S.

It's not all good news. Lincoln sales actually dropped last year. Ford will say retail sales were positive, but the fact remains, Lincoln is in bad shape.

Toyota and Honda were both down for the year. How much of that comes back with full production in 2012 will be a story line to watch this year.

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