For car makers, the new year has picked-up right where it left off in 2012 with growing strength, silencing naysayers for the moment about whether or not the momentum could be sustained as auto manufacturers posted January’s figures on Friday.
The “Big Three” Motor City auto makers General Motors Co. (GM), Ford Motor Co. (F), and Chrysler Group LLC all racked-up double digit gains for January sales, while Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) posted another stellar month.
Toyota said sales rose 26.6 percent to 157,725 units. "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, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.
Recently, Toyota was dubbed the most popular global car manufacturer with record sales of 9.75 million cars in 2012, a 22.6 percent increase over the prior year. General Motors, the U.S.’s largest auto maker, was not far behind, with 9.28 million of its models sold in 2012.
Speaking of GM, the company reported a 15.9 percent spike in sales in January to 194,699 units compared to last January, led by a more than 30 percent increase in sales of its Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks.
“There’s a sense of optimism among our dealers that only comes when you pair a growing economy with great new products,” said Kurt McNeil, GM’s vice president of U.S. sales operations.
Sales at Ford drove 22 percent higher in January to 166,501 vehicles as sales of it popular and sporty Fusion midsize car screamed 65 percent higher compared to the year prior January. The newly-designed Explorer SUV sales jumped 46 percent and its F-Series pickup saw an increase of 22 percent. The F-Series is the best selling truck line in the U.S.
Chrysler rang-up its best January since 2007 with a 16 percent sales hike to 117,731 vehicles., aided in part by a 14 percent increase in sales of its best selling line, the Ram pickup.
Volkswagen AG (VLKAY) even had a better month with 7 percent increase in U.S. sales to 29,018 units, it’s best January since 1974. The Volkswagen Passat midsize sedan paced the gains with a 40 percent rise in sales to 8,856 units.
All tallied, car makers sold about 1.1 million units last month, up 15 percent from January 2012.
In prior months, damaged cars from the carnage of Hurricane Sandy helped lift sales. In November, total light motor vehicle sales were reported at a 15.5 million annualized rate. December sales were basically on pace with a tepid decline to a 15.4 million annualized rate.
Although January’s figures were down from November and December, January is notoriously one of the slowest months of the year for sales with cold weather and infrequent specials keeping consumers off car lots.
For 2013, economists are predicting U.S. sales in the range of 15 million to 15.5 million again, still well below the record 17 million annualized pace in 2005.
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