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Chrysler leads US auto sales growth in January
by Staff Writers
Chicago (AFP) Feb 1, 2012


Chrysler led US auto sales growth in January with an impressive 44 percent jump that far outpaced modest gains at rivals Ford and Toyota and a drop at General Motors, industry data showed Wednesday.

It was Chrysler's 22nd consecutive month of gains and eighth month in a row of growth that came in at 20 percent or higher.

"We started the new year with a bang," Reid Bigland, head of Chrysler's US sales, said in a statement.

"In January, we continued building on the sales momentum that we generated during 2011 with our 16 all-new or significantly refreshed products."

The strong sales results come as Detroit's number three carmaker posted its first annual profit since emerging from a government-backed bankruptcy in 2009 and vowed to multiply profits eight times in 2012 to around $1.5 billion.

Chrysler, controlled by Italy's Fiat, reported January sales of 101,149, driven largely by strong sedan sales -- which jumped 137 percent from a year earlier. Truck sales were also strong, rising 25 percent.

Ford also posted its best January since 2008, the beginning of a deep economic downturn, as sales rose 7.4 percent to 136,710 vehicles.

Car sales drove Ford's gains, with the Focus contributing to 30 percent of January's growth after rising 60 percent to 14,400.

But with weakness in other sedans, total car sales rose just 2.4 percent while sport utility sales grew 12.2 percent and truck sales rose 7.9 percent.

GM said it was "not at all disappointed" in its six percent drop to 167,962 vehicles, which came in above forecasts and was due in part to a comparison with a "very strong" January in 2011.

"The strength that the economy and the auto industry showed in the fourth quarter carried into January, so we believe the year is off to a good start," said Don Johnson, head of GM's US sales.

"In 2012, we will strengthen our position with more new products, an even better dealership experience and reinforce the disciplined 'go to market' strategy that helped us grow profitably in the United States in 2011."

GM forecast that industry sales will come in essentially flat compared with December, with a seasonally adjusted, annualized sales rate of 13.5 million vehicles.

Total industry sales are forecast to grow 5.8 percent from January 2011 to 866,655 vehicles in January, according to Edmunds.com.

Final sales results were expected later Wednesday.

Toyota -- which has finally restocked dealer lots after supplies were smashed by the devastating Japanese quake and tsunami -- saw sales rise 7.5 percent to 124,540 vehicles.

"This month's results show that the all-new Camry is a hit, attracting both new and loyal customers with its class-leading performance and value," said Bob Carter general manager of Toyota Motor Sales USA.

"Our focus on delivering the best new products will continue as we enter the most aggressive launch of new vehicles in Toyota's history."

Honda, which was also hit by supply problems, posted an 8.8 percent gain to of 83,009 vehicles in January.

"Honda's return to full strength on the manufacturing front is already beginning to pay dividends on the sales floor," said John Mendel, head of Honda's US sales.

Volkswagen, which is making an aggressive push into the US market as part of a goal to become the world's largest automaker, posted a 47.9 percent gain in January to 27,209 vehicles.

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