Analysts said January auto sales in the U.S. were strong even though it is… (Joe Raedle / Getty Images )
Auto sales showed surprising strength in January with all three of the domestic manufacturers — General Motors, Ford and Chrysler — reporting double-digit gains.
“Automakers are kicking off the year strong, staying true to disciplined incentive spending as many curtailed their spending in January as the current lineup of products speak for themselves,” said Kristen Andersson, an analyst for auto price information company TrueCar.com.
General Motors Co., the nation’s biggest automaker, said its January U.S. sales rose by a strong 15.9% to 194,699 vehicles compared with the same month a year earlier.
“The year is off to a very good start for General Motors,” said Kurt McNeil, the company's vice president of U.S. sales operations. “There’s a sense of optimism among our dealers that only comes when you pair a growing economy with great new products.”
Ford Motor Co. said its January sales jumped 22% to 166,501 vehicles, its best January since 2006.
“Ford is off to a strong start this year, with Fusion and Escape delivering January sales records and F-Series [pickup trucks] seeing a particularly strong reception this early in the year,” said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service.
Chrysler Group had its best January in five years. Its sales rose 16% to 117,731 vehicles compared with the same month a year earlier.
Volkswagen had its best January since 1974. Its U.S. sales rose almost 7% to 29,018 vehicles.
“While the economic conditions continue to be somewhat uncertain, we expect Volkswagen to achieve continued growth and to outpace the industry this year,” said Jonathan Browning, chief executive of Volkswagen Group of America.
Consumers are displaying a "certain degree of resilience" in the face of continued economic uncertainty, he said.
Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A said its monthly sales rose 26.6% to 157,725 vehicles.
"The sales pace we saw in the fourth quarter of last year rolled into January, exceeding our expectations for the industry," said Bill Fay, Toyota Division group vice president and general manager.
Automakers sold about 1.1 million vehicles in January, a 15% gain from a year earlier, but down more than 22% from December 2012, according to estimates by TrueCar.com.
The numbers were especially good given that January, with its cold weather and lack of specials, tends to be one of the slower months for auto sales.
In addition, many shoppers had purchased new cars in December to take advantage of year-end clearance events that were no longer available in January, said Alec Gutierrez, an analyst for Kelley Blue Book.
Gutierrez said he expects sales to remain strong in the coming months, in part because of the wide availability of newly designed models. During the last two model years, nearly every vehicle in the mid-size car, compact car, subcompact car and small crossover segments were significantly redesigned, he said.
Consumers “have a plethora of vehicles to choose from that offer the latest technological advancements and fuel economy approaching 40 mpg,” said Gutierrez.