January 2012 Car Sales Are Strong--Except At GM

February 1, 2012

While nearly every automaker reported brisk, upbeat sales numbers for the first month of 2012, General Motors didn't have much to cheer.

GM sales were off by 6 percent last month, while its crosstown rivals were up, strongly in the case of Chrysler, which reported a sales increase of 44 percent, while Ford rose 7 percent.

Also on the upturn were Toyota and Honda, both reporting solid sales increases nearly a year after the destructive March 11 earthquake in northern Japan devastated the country and one of its auto production bases.

January's sales numbers were all that much more impressive given the predictions made just a week ago. Analysts at J.D. Power had expected sales to come in at nearly 13.5 million units, with 10.9 million of those sold to retail customers. With tallies complete, Automotive News  now reports that U.S. auto sales rose 11 percent on the month to a total of 913,284 units, for a seasonally-adjusted annual rate, or SAAR, of 14.2 million units.

For the year, the SAAR could rise to 14.5 million units, some automakers predict.

The strengthening in the market is unmistakable, Power's senior vice president of global automotive operations John Humphrey said in a release. “Vehicles are currently remaining on dealer lots for fewer than 50 days on average, which is the lowest level for January for the past several years. This is a good indication that pent-up demand is beginning to return to the market.”

The numbers for January 2012, as reported by the automakers:

General Motors: GM (NYSE: GM) reported sales off by 6.1 percent in January, an off-note drop while other major brands posted strong increases. As a whole, GM sold 167,962 vehicles in January 2012. Chevrolet sold 123,864 units, down 1.2 percent from a year ago; GMC moved 24,966 units, down 9.7 percent; Buick sold 10,208 vehicles, off 23.1 percent; and Cadillac was down 29.1 percent at 8,924 units. Volt sales were off by nearly half, but Chevy's Cruze, Malibu and Impala continued to sell well.

Ford: Ford (NYSE: F) sales grew 7 percent over what the automaker calls a strong January 2011. Ford sold 136,710 vehicles in the month, with 131,589 units coming from the Ford brand, which was up 8.3 percent on the month. The 2012 Focus--TheCarConnection's 2012 Best Car To Buy--had a 60-percent sales gain, with F-150 and Explorer sales up as well. However, Lincoln sold 5,121 vehicles, down 7.9 percent from last year's numbers--and just 78 cars more for the whole brand than Ford counted in sales of its outgoing Ranger compact pickup.

Toyota / Lexus / Scion: Toyota's trio of brands reported 124,540 cars and trucks sold in January, up 7.5 percent over the same period in 2011. Toyota got big help from the new Camry, and rose 9 percent to 112,266 units sold. Lexus moved 12,274 vehicles in January for a 4.6-percent decrease, and Scion sold 3,535 vehicles in the month, up 7.9 percent from the same period in 2011.

Chrysler: Chrysler posted the biggest sales increase of any major automaker, posting a 44-percent rise on plenty of fleet sales mixed in with stronger numbers for some of its mainstay products. In all, it sold 101,149 units, with the Chrysler brand growing its numbers by 81 percent, to 17,604 units. Jeep held strong with a 37-percent increase to 31,710 sales, with Dodge posting a 29-percent rise on sales of 31,454 vehicles. Ram trucks accounted for 18,470 vehicle sales, up 42 percent, and Fiat sold 1,911 vehicles in January--down from 2,655 units in December. The Chrysler 200 sedan and convertible posted a sales increase of 789 percent on the month.

Honda / Acura: Honda reported total January 2012 sales of 83,009 units, an increase of 8.8 percent over the same period in 2011. The Honda brand tallied 74,628 of those sales, up 9.3 percent, with Acura rising 5.3 percent with 8,381 sales last month. The Honda CR-V is off to a good sales start, with record January sales up 16 percent over January 2011.

Nissan / Infiniti: Nissan and its luxury Infiniti brand combined for sales of 79,313 vehicles in January, up 10.4 percent over January 2011's 71,847 units. Nissan accounted for 72,517 units, up 12.5 percent, with Altima up 35.9 percent; Infiniti was down 8.2 percent at 6,796 units, from 7,405 units the year prior.

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