The turnaround was the first sales gain since 2005 and followed the 2009 result which was the worst in 27 years. Once - briefly - the world's biggest carmaker, Toyota saw buyers walk from its record of recalls. With its negative 6 per cent result, it was the only US manufacturer to reverse 2009 sales and has been pushed to third place as Ford regains Number 2 spot.
Yet the bankruptcy - and subsequent public listing - of General Motors rejuvenated its sales. It finished 2010 with three of its four brands taking the top three spots for the biggest volume growth compared with 2009.
The year in the US auto world also showed the rapid acceptance of the Koreans. Hyundai recorded a 23.7 per cent sales hike compared with 2009 and Kia finished up 18.7 per cent.
The US industry's rebound is attributed to end-of-year discounting and a swarm of new models. Not only was 2010 up, the month of December was the best of the year.
US passenger car sales climbed 11 per cent in December to 1.1 million units. Annual passenger car sales were 11.59 million units, up from 10.43 million in 2009.
Sales this year are expected to continue to increase. Ford says it expects sales of 12.5 million this year while GM is forecasting a 10 per cent increase on 2010.
New models and continued buyer interest in crossover models lifted GM sales in December by 8 per cent. GM sales rose 7 per cent for all of 2010 - its first annual increase since 1999 - on demand across its four brands.
The remaining four brands sold 118,435 more vehicles in 2010 than the company generated with eight brands in 2009. In 2010 it sold off or shut down Pontiac, Saturn, Saab and Hummer.
Ford rose 4 per cent and Chrysler Group - which saw demand triple for its Jeep Grand Cherokee - reports a 16 per cent jump. Ford reclaimed from Toyota the No. 2 spot for US sales that it held for 76 years until 2007.
Ford outsold Toyota by 200,464 units in 2010, helped by its F-Series range which was the best-selling nameplate in 2010 for the 34th straight year.
Chrysler, now potentially in a takeover from Fiat, launched 16 new models or major model upgrades in 2010. The combined Hyundai-Kia Group had sales up 37 per cent in December.