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January 2013 Car Sales: A Super Kick-Off

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2013 Nissan Pathfinder

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Strong retail numbers pushed car sales higher in January, with double-digit gains scored by five of the Big Six automakers and by a host of other brands.

For the month, J.D. Power and Associates and LMC Automotive estimate the pickup at 8 percent, with a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) at the retail level of 12.9 million units, and overall, of 15 million units.

The industry's recovery isn't quite complete, but the end is in sight, reports John Humphrey, senior vice president of global automotive operations at J.D. Power and Associates. The fast start to sales bodes well for the rest of the year, he says, and he believes sales "remain on a trajectory to return to pre-recession levels within the next few years.”

By the numbers, GM sales were up 15.9 percent; Ford's rose 22 percent; Toyota was up almost 27 percent; Chrysler was up 16 percent; Honda sales climbed 12.8 percent; and Nissan sales were up 2 percent.

This year could see overall sales approach 15.1 million units on an annualized basis, says Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive.

“The good news is that the U.S. market is primed to over-deliver as the recovery heats up," he says.

That recovery continues to waver, however. Today, the Department of Labor reported that January's unemployment rate was 7.9 percent, up from 7.8 percent the month before, with the nation adding only 157,000 jobs in the month.

The complete sales figures, as reported by automakers:

General Motors: GM [NYSE:GM] sold 194,699 vehicles in January, a 15.9-percent increase over last year's numbers. Each of its brands was up on the month: Chevrolet sold 137,304 vehicles for a 10.9-percent increase; after its North American Car of the Year for the 2013 ATS, Cadillac posted a 47-percent sales gain for its best month in 23 years, with sales totaling 13,116 units. Buick moved 13,463 vehicles, an increase of 31.9 percent, and GMC was up 23.4 percent to 30,816 units. GM says truck sales were up 32 percent on the month, but notes it's carrying an 80-day supply of units to be sold, on the high end of usually accepted figures, while it prepares for the launch of the 2014 Chevy Silverado and 2014 GMC Sierra.

Ford: Ford Motor Company [NYSE:F] reports sales of 166,501 vehicles in January, a 22-percent boost over the same period last year. The Ford brand's 162,310 sales were good for a 23.3-percent rise, while Lincoln's 4,191 sales represented an 18.2-percent drop-off. The 2013 Fusion--TheCarConnection's Best Car To Buy--had a 65-percent sales increase on the month, and Ford F-Series sales were up almost 22 percent, while Mustang was off a little more than 3 percent.

Toyota / Lexus / Scion: Toyota says it sold 157,725 units in January 2013, up 26.6 percent on an unadjusted raw volume basis and 21.6 percent on an adjusted basis. The Toyota division moved 141,514 units, up 26.1 on an unadjusted basis, 21 percent on an adjusted basis. The Lexus brand accounted for 16,211 units, up 26.8 percent unadjusted and 32.1 percent on an adjusted basis. Scion was up 38.4 percent.

Chrysler:  Chrysler reported January sales of 117,731 units, up 16 percent over the same period a year ago. All of its brands were up except Jeep. The namesake Chrysler brand was up 18 percent to 20,696 vehicles, while Dodge rose 37 percent to 43,227 units. Jeep was off 4 percent, as it switches over to new model year production for Grand Cherokee and the end of production for the last-generation Liberty. Ram truck sales grew to 20,987 units, up 14 percent, and Fiat 500 sales were up 31 percent over the same period in 2012, to 2,503 units. With most models performing better, the Dodge Grand Caravan saw its sales drop 39 percent.

Honda / Acura: Honda reported sales of 93,626 vehicles in January, for a sales increase of 12.8 percent. The Honda brand accounted for 84,137 units, up 12.7 percent from a year ago, while Acura sales rose 13.2 percent, at 9,489 units. Sales of the revamped 2013 Accord are up more than 75 percent from a year ago. However, sales of the Insight hybrid were off almost 38 percent, and the TSX sport sedan, almost 44 percent.

Nissan / Infiniti: The Nashville-based automaker says its sales in January rose 2 percent over the year-ago period, to 80,919 units. Sales of Nissan-brand vehicles grew by 73,793 units, up 1.8 percent; the Leaf electric car slid to 650 sales for the month, on the run-out of 2012 models. Infiniti sales were up 4.9 percent, to 7,126 units.

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