U.S. auto sales rose 17.3% in January from a year earlier, according to Autodata. Rising gasoline prices are pushing Americans into small cars and hybrids.
Sales were expected to total around 800,000 for the month. That’s still below pre-recession levels of 1 million or more, but better than last January’s sales of 698,000.
January Winner: General Motors General Motors has beat-out Chrysler for this month’s honor. Sales of GM’s “core” brands rose 23.3 percent in January, just topping Chrysler’s 23 percent gain.
“We have started the year on a strong note, and we intend to continue gaining sales momentum as our new 2011 models hit dealer showrooms during this first quarter,” said Fred Diaz, Chrysler’s U.S. sales chief.
Ford said that its weaker results reflected a decline in sales to car rental companies and the end of the Mercury brand, pointing out that its sales to individual buyers were up 27 percent.
Based on preliminary data, analysts estimated that the auto industry sold cars an annual rate of about 12 million to 12.5 million in January. The industry sold about 11.6 million vehicles in 2010