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by Tim Beissmann

Sales of new cars and trucks in the US increased 17 percent in January compared with the same month last year, further demonstrating the industry’s continued recovery.

General Motors has set a strong early pace. Its 178,897 sales figure was 22 percent better than January 2010.

GM’s numbers were strengthened especially by the performance of Cadillac (up 49 percent), Buick (up 31 percent) and GMC (up 30 percent). Chevrolet – which accounts for 70 percent of GM’s US sales – enjoyed a more modest 19 percent increase, or an extra 20,000 vehicles.

Second-placed Ford Motor Co. was weighed down by an underperforming Lincoln (down 21 percent) and the already retired Mercury (down 95 percent). Overall, Ford Motor Co. sales increased nine percent to 126,981.

Individually, the Ford brand was less than 4000 units shy of Chevrolet with 121,511 sales, and increased 22 percent on its own.

Toyota Motor Corp rebounded from a disastrous run of recalls in January 2010, with sales on par with the industry average. In its total of 115,856 units, Lexus shed 17 percent while Toyota added 24 percent.

Chrysler Group sales increased 23 percent compared with 2010, climbing to 70,118 in January 2011. Sales of Chrysler brand vehicles decreased seven percent, but its SUV and truck brands came to the rescue: Jeep (up 47 percent), Dodge (up 22 percent) and Ram (up 18 percent).

Nissan and Honda increased 15 percent and 13 percent respectively, both marginally below the industry average.

Hyundai Group jumped 24 percent to 65,003, with combined sales of Hyundai and Kia vehicles hot on the heels of the traditional Japanese imports.

Mazda sales slumped nine percent, while Volkswagen was steady with a two percent increase. Low-volume seller Mitsubishi gained 37 percent, while in the battle of the premium Germans, Mercedes-Benz held off BMW by just 1368 units.

The total January result of 819,688 vehicles was the best January since 2008, and contributes to a 12.6 million vehicle annualised rate for 2011.

Industry analysts are predicting a strong year for the US and especially Detroit if oil prices do not escalate unexpectedly.




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