Employers stepped up hiring in December, another sign of a strengthening economy.
Analysts say auto sales accounted for nearly a third of all the growth in the U.S. economy in 2012, with record December sales sealing the deal for the year.
Volkswagen had its best December since 1970.
Business was good at Chrysler, Ford and General Motors as well.
"December is typically a good month for the auto industry, the fact that Washington made some progress toward the end of the month, so we feel very good about where we finished," said GM Vice President of US Sales Kurt McNeil.
However, uncertainty out of Washington over the fiscal cliff made for a tough month for major U.S. retailers like Target, where sales were reported as flat compared with last year.
Family Dollar also says sales were hurt by consumers becoming cautious with their holiday spending.
Still, most retailers weren't that disappointed with December.
"The National Retail Federation had expected holiday sales would grow at about a 4 percent rate. That's probably about what we saw. It certainly was not a blockbuster holiday season, but it wasn't completely disastrous either," says CNBC's Courtney Reagan.
Quite possibly the best gift of the season: U.S. companies added more jobs than expected last month.
Payroll giant ADP says the private sector hired 215,000 new employees in December and revised its figures for November upward.
The U.S. Labor Department announces private and public sector hiring along with December's unemployment rate Friday morning.