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6 Best-Selling Cars for 2012

Tickers in this article: F GM HMC NSANY TM

DETROIT ( TheStreet) -- As the U.S. auto industry finished out a strong year with a sales gain of 13.4% to 14.5 million vehicles, the best year since 2007, six vehicles sold more than 300,000 units each.

Two pickup trucks are the best-selling U.S. vehicles, and Japanese manufacturers dominate the mid-sized sedan segment, the biggest U.S. auto segment, as well as the compact segment.

Looking at percentage changes among top-selling vehicles, the 44% gain for the Honda (HMC) Civic stands out, followed closely by the 41% increase for the Accord. The only other top-selling vehicle with a 40% gain was the No. 11 Ford (F) Focus, which climbed 40% to reach 245,922 units.

As auto sales rose for the third consecutive year, not a single vehicle in the top 11 lost sales. Sales of the No. 12 Ford Fusion declined 2.7% to 241,263 million, a result of the changeover to the eagerly awaited 2014 model as well as two December recalls.

It is not unreasonable to think that Fusion will crack the top 10 list in 2013. Check back here next year to find out.

In the meantime, here are the top selling U.S. vehicles during 2012. Nissan Altima

Nissan (NSANY) Altima sold 302,934 units in 2012, up 12.6% from a year earlier. It was the first time that Altima's U.S. sales topped 300,000.

The Altima is more than holding its own in the tough battle for dominance in the mid-sized sedan sector, which accounts for three of the top six vehicles and where Fusion also competes as does GM's(GM) Chevrolet Malibu, which sold 210,951 units, up 3% in 2013.

Nissan's U.S. sales, including Infiniti sales, totaled 1.14 million, topping 1 million for the second year in a row. Many of the cars, including Altima, were produced at the Nissan plant in Smyrna, Tenn. Nissan introduced a redesigned Altima in Smyrna in May and said its goal is to catch Toyota (TM) Camry.

It is good to have goals. Honda Civic

Honda Civic sold 317,909 units in 2012, up 43.7% from the previous year, the biggest gain among the top 20 U.S. vehicles, reflecting the strong recovery by Japanese automakers following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Honda leads in the compact segment, despite intense pressure created by Korean manufacturers, by the Detroit Three which have been increasingly successful in compact markets including California, and by its own goof when it redesigned the 2012 Civic.

The redesign was not well-received and Consumer Reports declined to recommend the car for the first time in a generation. So Honda quickly offered a redesigned the 2013 model, which was unveiled last month at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Honda Accord

Honda Accord sold 331,872 units in 2012, up 40.8%, another reflection of the strong recovery from a year in which inventories were sharply reduced.