Subaru of America Inc. capped its best sales year ever with a 33 percent rise in December sales.

For 2009, Subaru sold 216,652 vehicles, up 15 percent from 187,699 in 2008.

Today's the day when most automakers release their sales for December and the full year.

The Cherry Hill-based Subaru may not have as many kinds of vehicles in its lineup as General Motors or Toyota, but three of its five models experienced strong double-digit growth.

Its biggest seller was the Forester with 77,781 units sold in 2009, up 28 percent from 60,748 in 2008.

Subaru's previous yearly sales record was 200,703 in 2006.

For December 2009, total sales were 23,074, up from 17,287 in December 2008. Subaru is owned by Japan's Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.

Last year was brutal for the U.S. auto industry, but analysts are hoping that December sales results indicate that business is getting back to normal.

UPDATE: Ford Motor Co. saw a 33 percent rise in its December sales. For all of 2009, Ford sales declined by 15 percent. Ford also said sales in its Philadelphia region were up 25 percent in December. (The automaker defines that region as running from Scranton to Dover, Del. and from Harriburg to South Jersey.)

General Motors' 2009 sales were 2.08 million, down 30 percent from 2.98 million. Its December sales rose 7 percent.

Chrysler Group LLC sales plunged 36 percent between 2008 and 2009. The 2009 tally was 931,402 cars and trucks sold. The Associated Press is reporting that it's the first time Chrysler has sold less than 1 million vehicles since 1962.

Toyota Motor said its 2009 sales, including its Lexus division, were down 20 percent to 1.77 million from 2.22 million in 2008.