DETROIT (AP) - Domestic and foreign automakers together set a sales record in 1986, selling the most cars in the United States since 1978 and 3.7 percent more than in 1985, the companies reported Wednesday.
Total U.S. car sales hit 11,442,725 in 1986, up from 11,032,215 in 1985. The 1978 record was 11,110,136. Total car and light truck sales for 1986 were 16,047,306, up 4 percent from 15,433,995 in 1985.
``There were three causes: one, the sharp decline in gas prices; a 250,000-unit increase just from the influx of car buyers because of the tax reform act and then there were the incentives,'' said Thomas O'Grady, industry analyst with Integrated Automotive Resources in Wayne, Pa.
Foreign makers increased their share of the 1986 U.S. car market to 28.2 percent, the highest import level in history. Among them was Hyundai Motor America, which sold 168,882 low-priced Korean cars, setting a record for an importer's first year of business in the United States.
In 1986, U.S. buyers purchased a record 3,228,054 imported cars, up 14.2 percent from 1985, and a record 926,984 imported passenger trucks, up 20 percent from 1985.
Domestic makers sold 8,214,671 cars in 1986, up 0.1 percent from 8,204,721 in 1985, and 3,677,597 trucks, up 1.3 percent from 3,629,203 in 1985.
The single best-selling vehicle of 1986 was the Ford Motor Co. F-series full-size pickup truck, according to Robert Rewey, Ford division general manager. Ford sold 544,969 of the trucks in 1986.
Sales by the Big Three U.S. makers - General Motors Corp., Ford and Chrysler Corp. - were down 0.6 percent for 1986, but with Ford and Chrysler enjoying generally strong sales, the decrease was attributable to GM, O'Grady said.
Deep-discount financing incentives with interest rates under 3 percent, launched by GM in late August and offered by most makers, brought sales to a peak in September and early October, followed by a valley when the incentives ended.
Sales recovered steadily through early December and then accelerated in the last 20 days of the month as buyers rushed to take advantage of the sales tax deduction before it was eliminated under the new federal income tax law.
From Dec. 21-31, domestic car …