A customer walks by Dodge cars on the sales lot at Hilltop Chrysler Jeep Dodge in Richmond, California. - 

The three U.S. automakers are out today with their U.S. sales results from the past year. General Motors saw sales rise 3.7 percent in 2012. Ford's sales were up 5 percent for the year. And at Chrysler, which was hit especially hard during the financial crisis, sales were up 21 percent.

"What stands out to me is the quality of the product that consistently was coming out from all three of these manufacturers. The whole industry has really turned up the competitive level," says Karl Brauer, editor-in-chief of Total Car Score.

According to Brauer, better quality cars combined with years of pent-up demand due to the recession resulted in a bumper year for carmakers.

To hear which car segments are improving the most, click on the audio player above.

Follow Jeff Horwich at @jeffhorwich