January sales: Detroit Three, Toyota post big gains

The auto industry appears to be starting out strong this year - details inside.

Though January is traditionally a slow sales month, this time around is a different story as the auto industry has maintained much of the solid momentum it built at the end of last year.

General Motors, Ford and Chrysler all enjoyed double-digit sales gains, while Toyota USA also had reason to celebrate due to a 27 percent volume increase. Analysts say that the market hit a seasonally adjusted annual sales rate of 15.24 million units, far outstripping last January's pace of 13.97 million units.

Overall, industry sales totaled 1,037,900 vehicles, an increase of 14 percent from the same period last year.

January's Numbers

Acura - Up 13 percent to 9489

Audi - Up 8 percent to 10,056

BMW - Up 1 percent to 16,513

Buick - Up 32 percent to 13,463

Cadillac - Up 47 percent to 13,116

Chevrolet - Up 10.9 percent to 137,304

Chrysler - Up 18 percent to 20,696

Dodge - Up 37 percent to 43,227

Fiat - Up 31 percent to 2,503

Ford - Up 23 percent to 162,310

GMC - Up 23 percent to 30,816

Honda - Up 13 percent to 84,137

Hyundai - Up 2 percent to 43,713

Infiniti - Up 5 percent to 7,126

Jaguar - Up 4 percent to 1,029

Jeep - Down 4 percent to 30,318

Kia - Up 2 percent to 36,302

Land Rover - Up 31 percent to 4,200

Lexus - Up 27 percent to 16,211

Lincoln - Down 18 percent to 4,191

Maserati - Up 12 percent to 172

Mazda - Down 11 percent to 21,319

Mercedes-Benz - Up 11 percent to 23,578

Mitsubishi - Down 1 percent to 4659

MINI - Up 10 percent to 3682

Nissan - Up 2 percent to 73,793

Porsche - Up 32 percent to 3,358

Ram - Up 14 percent to 20,987

Smart - Down 3 percent to 481

Subaru - Up 21 percent to 27,663

Suzuki - Down 1 percent to 1,486

Toyota (Includes Scion) - Up 21 percent to 141,514

Volkswagen - Up 7 percent to 29,018

Volvo - Up 9 percent to 4875

BMW Group - Up 2 percent to 20,195

Chrysler - Up 16 percent to 117,731

Daimler - Up 11 percent to 24,059

Ford Motor Company - Up 22 percent to 166,501

General Motors - Up 16 percent to 194,699

American Honda - Up 13 percent to 93,626

Hyundai Group - Up 2 percent to 80,015

Jaguar Land Rover - Up 25 percent to 5,229

Nissan North America - Up 2 percent 80,919

Toyota USA - Up 27 percent to 157,725

Volkswagen - Up 9 percent to 42,432

The Domestics

Chrysler Group reported its best January since 2008 thanks to solid gains from its Ram, Fiat, Dodge and namesake Chrysler brands. Only Jeep posted a slight decline of four percent, and that came as a result of slumping sales of the soon-to-be-replaced Liberty SUV.

Notable individual performers included the refreshed Ram pickup, up 14 percent, the Avenger sedan, up 69 percent, and the Journey, which climbed an impressive 94 percent - perhaps luring buyers away from the Grand Caravan, which plummeted 39 percent. The Dart continues to slowly find its footing in the marketplace, although its tally of 7,154 sales still lands it in the bottom half of the compact segment.

Ford started off 2013 the right way, with retail sales growth of 24 percent just outpacing its overall volume increase of 22 percent. Demand for the Blue Oval's bread-and-butter F-Series pickups rose 22 percent, and 2013 Fusion volume grew 65 percent (to 22,399 units) over the lame duck 2012 model that was on dealer lots last January. Small cars were a bright spot for the automaker, with the Fiesta being the standout thanks to a bump of 22 percent following a rocky 2012.

Despite dropping off 18.2 percent as a brand, Lincoln's results were surprisingly good. Aside from dwindling demand for the Navigator and a steep drop off for the lame duck MKZ, Lincoln's lineup enjoyed significant growth .

Over at GM, each of the General's four brands saw large increases over a slow January last year, with total retail sales up 24 percent. Volume models like Chevrolet and GMC's full-size pickups and compact crossovers led the way, although niche models like the Volt - up 89 percent to 1,140 units - were also notable. Buick's declining LaCrosse and Regal sedans were more than offset by increased deliveries of the Verano and the updated Enclave, while Cadillac's 47 percent overall increase was largely attributable to its new ATS and XTS models.

The Asians

Japan's largest automaker, Toyota, recorded a sterling sales month - besides the Yaris, all Toyota-branded vehicles were gainers. The Prius lineup - aided by the addition of the entry-level Prius c - was up 31 percent, the Camry stayed atop the mid-size sedan segment with 31,897 units sold, and even the antediluvian Corolla shot up 32 percent. The redesigned ES sedan spearheaded a strong month for Lexus, and Toyota's Scion division climbed 38 percent.

While it didn't come close to matching the Camry, Honda's redesigned Accord did find 23,924 new owners last month, a figure that represents a whopping 10,000-unit, 75-percent increase over the outgoing model's performance the previous January. The rest of the automaker's lineup was all over the board, as Civic sales stayed flat and CR-V demand slipped by 10 percent, but Acura surged on the strength of its new ILX and RDX models.

Nissan's redesigned Sentra compact and Pathfinder crossover helped grow the automaker's sales ever so slightly, while the new JX luxury CUV was enough to pull Infiniti's results into the positive column despite declines for almost all of its other models.

Although Hyundai's numbers were up only incrementally, they were still sufficient to best last year's record-breaking January sales. The new Santa Fe was a highlight, Elantra sales climbed and the Korean automaker's Kia affiliate had success with its Optima and Sorento offerings.

Mazda had a tough time in January, finding fewer takers for its Mazda2 and Mazda3 compacts and hurting from a lack of widespread availability of the new Mazda6. On a lighter note, sales of the only minivan to offer a stick shift in the states, the Mazda5, increased by 55 percent.

Subaru continued its march towards the mainstream, overcoming a worrying 26.2 percent decline for its key Impreza compact with double-digit growth for the Outback and Forester.

It comes as little surprise that Mitsubishi didn't fare well, but the automaker says that its percentages were hampered by discontinued models like the Eclipse and Galant. Total sales of Mitsu models still in production actually increased by 59 percent.

Suzuki fell about one percent, but that isn't bad at all for a brand that's about to exit the U.S. market. Bargain hunters and attractive discounts have rapidly depleted Suzuki's inventory in recent months, leading the automaker's bankrupt U.S. division to order an additional 2,500 cars for stateside consumption last December.

The Europeans

Audi set a new January sales record on the way to its 25th straight month of sales gains. The A8's new engine lineup is proving a success - deliveries of the full-size sedan surged by 56 percent - while the four-ring brand's mainstay Q5 crossover continued to deliver.

Mercedes-Benz also had itself a record month, thanks in part to a 10 percent upswing for its best-seller, the C-Class. It'll be interesting to see how the C-Class fares once the more affordable, but identically-sized CLA-Class waltzes into showrooms this fall.

BMW essentially remained flat for the month, although MINI sales continued to trend upward thanks in large part to the Countryman crossover.

January was a bit of a mixed bag for Volkswagen, although flagging sales of niche models - and a 5 percent slide for the Jetta - were small potatoes compared to a 40 percent boost for the Passat to 8,856 units.

Leftlane's Bottom Line

If January is any indication, 2013 should shape up to be an excellent year for the auto industry. While we don't expect the market's overall expansion to quite match last year's growth of 13 percent, its nonetheless encouraging that January's seasonally-almost annual rate of 15.24 million almost equaled last December's red-hot pace.

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