DETROIT, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Chrysler Group LLC on Friday reported a 6 percent gain last month in U.S. auto sales, its best December since 2007, but still narrowly missed analyst expectations.
Jeep sales rose 34 percent in the month, led by the new Cherokee, which sold four times as well in December as the vehicle it replaced, the Jeep Liberty, did a year ago.
Five analysts had expected Chrysler to gain about 7 percent over last year's December sales.
U.S. automakers are expected to show a gain of 4 percent in December new-vehicle sales from a year ago.
Chrysler is the first of the major automakers in the U.S. market to report December sales on Friday.
Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters see the annualized sales rate for December at 16 million vehicles, a level that has been topped only in November and August last year.
For all of 2013, U.S. auto sales are expected to finish near 15.6 million, up about 8 percent.
While some economists and analysts expect 2014 sales to rise to a range of 16 million to 16.5 million vehicles, there is a growing concern that competition will intensify, leading to higher incentives and lower profits for companies.
Research firm TrueCar.com said vehicle transaction prices fell by an average of $200 per vehicle in December, or 0.6 percent, over last year while incentives were up $103 per vehicle, or 4 percent.
Chrysler is majority owned by Italy's Fiat. Earlier this week, the two companies announced that Fiat would buy the remainder of Chrysler that is currently owned by a United Auto Workers healthcare trust, for $4.35 billion. That deal is expected to close by Jan. 20.