Chrysler van
Chrysler van Chrysler

(REUTERS) -- Chrysler reported a 37 percent rise in U.S. new-vehicle sales in December as the U.S. automaker finished the year with strong gains thanks to a refreshed lineup of cars and trucks.

Chrysler, controlled by Fiat, reported December U.S. sales of 138,019 new vehicles, compared with 100,702 a year earlier. The results were in line with forecasts by industry research firms and

They've done a remarkable job sprucing up their vehicles, said Edmunds analyst Michelle Krebs, adding Chrysler was coming off a low base of sales in 2010.

Krebs credited last year's halftime television ad during pro football's Super Bowl championship, featuring rapper Eminem, for raising the brand's image with consumers.

For the year, sales at Chrysler finished up 26 percent, and the automaker said it gained 1.3 percentage points of market share.

The rest of the automakers, including General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co, are also scheduled to report December U.S. sales on Wednesday. U.S. new-vehicle sales are an early indicator each month of consumer spending, and the United States is the world's second-largest auto market behind China.

The annual sales rate for December, according to a Thomson Reuters poll of 30 analysts, is expected to rise about 9 percent from a year earlier to 13.6 million vehicles, topping 13 million for the fourth straight month. The December 2010 sales rate was 12.5 million vehicles.

TrueCar expects 2011 full-year sales to hit 12.8 million vehicles, up from 11.6 million in 2010.

That is still much lower than the nearly 17 million in U.S. annual auto sales averaged in a 10-year period through 2007. In 2008, recession began to take hold and a year later GM and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy.

TrueCar expects 2012 U.S. auto sales to reach 14 million.