UPDATE 2-U.S. auto sales end 2014 strong, helped by low gas prices
(Recasts lead, adds GM, Ford results, analyst comments)
By Bernie Woodall and Ben Klayman
DETROIT Jan 5 (Reuters) - Automakers reported strong December U.S. sales Monday, boosted by falling gas prices, but industry executives and analysts cautioned that growth would slow this year after five years of rapid recovery from the recession.
General Motors Co easily beat analyst expectations, logging a 19 percent gain to 274,483 vehicles, the best December for the No. 1 U.S. automaker in seven years. Ford Motor Co sales of 220,671 were up just 1 percent, missing expectations.
"U.S. auto sales are dancing to a very different (and we believe unsustainable) beat," Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas said in a research note.
He suggested U.S. auto demand has outpaced economic, wage and housing growth rates, thanks largely to easy credit access for consumers.
Spurred by low gasoline prices, pickup truck and large SUV sales surged in the month.
Sales of GM pickup trucks Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra surged 35 percent to 81,273, outpacing the F-Series pickups from Ford, which were flat at 74,355 vehicles. Ford's F-150 pickup truck sales remain limited due to the rollout of a new version.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' Ram Truck brand pickup sales soared 32 percent to 44,222 units. Continua...