US auto sales showed significant gains throughout 2015, and we now know it was officially the best year ever. According to Automotive News, the final tally reached 17.471 million new vehicles to beat 2000's previous record of 17.402 million. This was also strong growth over 2014's total of nearly 17 million.

A perfect combination of cheap gas, easy credit, and strong demand helped propel sales this year. According to Automotive News citing Edmunds data, leases attained a record 29 percent of the market in 2015 versus 27 percent in 2014. The move away from traditional financing was likely linked to rising transaction prices. Average shoppers spent $33,188 for their new vehicle, up 2.5 percent from 2014, according to AN. A study by Experian also showed leases at record levels in the third quarter of 2015.

The new record should put the final nail in the coffin of any lingering bad feelings about the Great Recession, and the industry has made an amazing turnaround. According to Automotive News, the dire times of 2009 saw a 30-year sales low of 10.4 million vehicles.

A strong December with an 8.9-percent jump in sales also helped push up the record. While these numbers are fascinating, they're just the tip of the iceberg. Look for a breakdown of each automaker's performance in Autoblog's regular By the Numbers report soon.

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