Individual buyers push U.S. auto sales to a strong start in 2011

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u.s. automakers

A January year-over-year sales increase for U.S. automakers signals a strengthening recovery for the auto industry. Image: CC M Glasgow/Flickr

U.S. auto sales got off to a strong start in 2011. Year-over-year sales were up for U.S. automakers in January, traditionally one of the worst months of the year for U.S. auto sales. Coming off a late 2010 surge, analysts expect U.S. auto sales to gain further momentum with new models and an economy that gradually improves.

The recovery of the U.S. auto industry

Nearly every U.S. automaker reported a significant sales increase in January, according to, an auto industry sales and pricing website. The recovery of the U.S. auto industry is being driven by low financing rates, relatively stable fuel prices (for now), pent-up demand, growing consumer confidence and innovative new models. Some of those new models include the completely redesigned Ford Explorer, the Chevy Cruze and the Volt plug-in hybrid from General Motors. Ford and General Motors rode those new models and a new public perception in manufacturing quality to the biggest sales increases among U.S. automakers.

U.S. auto sales statistics

The fact that January’s U.S. auto sales figures showed less emphasis on fleet sales at deep discounts than in 2010 is another encouraging sign for the industry. The slide in fleet sales means households are returning to dealer showrooms. General Motors increased total year-over-year sales 22 percent and Ford recorded a 9 percent increase in January. General Motors increased auto sales to individual buyers 36 percent and Ford saw a 27 percent improvement in that category–the largest year-over-year increase for the company in more than 10 years. Chrysler reported a 23 percent January increase and Nissan sales increased 15 percent. Toyota reported a 17 percent increase, which was below expectations. Toyota’s sub-par performance was largely because of a recall of more than 10 million cars worldwide.

U.S. auto sales trending upward

U.S. auto sales overall in January were about 17 percent higher than the first month of 2010. The annualized rate is steadily climbing, from 10.8 million vehicles in January 2010, to 12.5 million in December, to 12.6 million last month. Across the U.S. auto industry, sales rose 11.1 percent in 2010 to 11.6 million vehicles. U.S. auto sales bottomed out in 2009 at 10.4 million. Automakers project U.S. sales of more than 13 million in 2011. Before the recession hit, U.S. auto sales hit 16.1 million in 2007.


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