Detroit, Toyota see big US sales gains in January

American consumers ignored tax increases and trudged through winter weather to buy new cars and trucks at an unusually strong pace last month. It was the auto industry's best January since 2008.
Associated Press
Feb 3, 2013

"It was like a sprinter out of the starting blocks," said Mike Jackson, CEO of AutoNation Inc., the country's largest auto dealership chain.

U.S. auto sales rose 14 percent to more than 1 million. Toyota's 27 percent gain was the biggest among the major car companies. Ford's sales jumped 22 percent, while GM and Chrysler each reported 16 percent gains compared with a year earlier.

The results left the industry optimistic about the new year. Businesses bought more trucks. Consumers are ready to buy — their cars have reached a record average of 11.3 years old — and banks are making it easier with low interest rates and looser credit terms.

The stock market may also have inspired car buyers. The Standard & Poor's 500 index had its strongest January since 1997, and new-car purchases tend to rise or fall with the market. Also, employers have been hiring at a steady — if not spectacular — pace.

"We're in a fundamentally sound trajectory," said Mustafa Mohatarem, chief economist for GM. He said the recovery from the Great Recession in 2008 is still modest, but "those recoveries tend to be much more sustainable."

Whatever the incentive, people didn't let chilly weather, or the heavier hand of the U.S. Treasury, stop them from car shopping.

Sales ran at an annual pace of 15.3 million in January. If that holds for the rest of the year, automakers will sell nearly 1 million more vehicles than in 2012, when sales rose 13 percent.

Analysts predict full-year sales of 15 million to 15.5 million this year. Although still far from the peak of about 17 million in 2005, the industry could sell a whopping 5 million more cars and trucks than it did in 2009, the worst year in three decades.

The strong January numbers came even though higher taxes reduced take-home pay for most Americans. Taxes rose after a 2-percent reduction in Social Security taxes that was in place for two years expired Jan. 1.

Sales might have been even higher without the tax increase, said Jesse Toprak, vice president of industry analysts at the car pricing site TrueCar.com. He said the increase is costing the average new car buyer — those with a household income between $70,000 and $100,000 per year — around $300 per month.

"That's almost a car payment," he said.

Toyota sales jumped on the strength of the Prius hybrid cars and wagon, which rose 36 percent, and the new Avalon sedan, which was up 50 percent. The luxury Lexus brand climbed 32 percent on strong sales of the new ES and GS sedans.

At Ford, January's sales growth was led by the newly redesigned Fusion midsize car, which saw a 65 percent increase. Explorer SUV sales rose 46 percent.

Ford's luxury Lincoln brand fell 18 percent. Lincoln's new MKZ sedan, which is featured in a Super Bowl ad, is going on sale now, but could be tough for buyers to find. Ford's U.S. sales chief Ken Czubay said the new Lincolns are undergoing extra quality checks that will delay shipments through April.

Sales of the F-Series pickup truck, the top-selling vehicle in the U.S., rose 22 percent. GM's Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups each saw increases of over 30 percent while sales of the Ram pickup, Chrysler's top-selling vehicle, rose 14 percent from a year earlier. Those gains give a strong indication that businesses are replacing aging pickup trucks that they kept through the Great Recession.

Kurt McNeil, GM's vice president of sales operations, said the company noticed a 37 percent increase in sales to small businesses like building contractors, who normally buy pickup trucks.

Jackson, whose chain reported record fourth-quarter earnings on Thursday, feared a hangover last month from the strong finish to 2012. But he said people who focused on paying down debt the past few years are now making big-ticket purchases at a robust pace.

Consumers are saying: "I'm moving ahead with my life. I'm getting a new vehicle," Jackson said.

Buyers crowded dealerships even though incentives weren't as good as last year. The auto industry spent 8 percent less on discounts last month than it did a year earlier, according to TrueCar.com. Of all major automakers, only Hyundai and Volkswagen raised incentives from what they spent in January of 2012, TrueCar said.

But that could change later in the year as automakers are expected to compete for sales with new vehicles and better deals.

Other automakers reporting sales Friday:

— Honda's sales rose 12.8 percent. A 75-percent increase in sales of the new Accord helped offset weaker sales of the CR-V and Civic.

— Nissan's sales rose 2 percent. Sales of the newly redesigned Pathfinder SUV, which went on sale in November, more than tripled over last January. The new Sentra also saw big sales gains.

— Hyundai's sales rose 2 percent, with a 24 percent increase in Elantra small car sales helping outweigh an 8 percent decline for the midsize Sonata. Hyundai said it was a record January for its U.S. sales.

— Volkswagen's sales grew 7 percent. That was slower than the company's 31-percent sales growth last January, but it was still the company's best January in the U.S. since 1974. Passat midsize sedan sales rose 40 percent.

 

Comments

goofus

OMG The All Praise Obama news service is really digging to praise Obozo. The jist of the whole article can be found in the opening paragraph. We had an average of cars on the road 11.3 years old, probably the worst ever!!!!!

Contango

From the article:

"...banks are making it easier with low interest rates and looser credit terms.

The stock market may also have inspired car buyers. The Standard & Poor's 500 index had its strongest January since 1997, and new-car purchases tend to rise or fall with the market."

The Fed's ZIRP and QE policies are showing their intended effects. Unravelling them is uncharted financial territory.

The Market rising causing people to spend is called the "wealth effect."

The "wealth effect" felt great great right up to 2007 didn't it?

Unemployment raised to 7.9% and 2012 GDP was 2.2%.

Without the Fed, this economy would be comatose.

The Big Dog's back

Yep, bush broke the bank and now with President Obama's policies people are buying cars again.

Contango

What "exactly" is Pres. BHO doin' to encourage this spending?

Yea, a 7.9% unemployment rate, the lowest labor participation rate in 30 yrs. and a Q4 GDP of minus 0.1%

Fed, Fed, Fed.

The Big Dog's back

He saved the auto industry, you know, "Government Motors".

Contango

So "saving the auto ind." is encouraging this spending?

Taxpayers still own shares in GM and most of Ally Bank (GMAC).

So when you buyin' a Volt or other GM car?

shucks

@ Con
How's your Lada running?

anthras

Romney proposed saving GM also. If GM would have gone under there are enough other auto manufacturers in this country to more than pick up the gap that GM would leave if they did cease. Due to increased production by the other auto manufactures there would have been a need for additional employees.

The Big Dog's back

You don't have a clue.

anthras

big dog, "you don't have a clue" is more of a sound bite than a statement. If you would make an actual statement then I may be able to respond.It seems that you do that often as you do not seem to be able to factually counter other persons statements.

It is true that Romney had a plan to save GM. Also it seems very logical that if GM would have ceased to operate that the other auto manufactures would build more autos to take up the slack it also seems logical that if they would build more autos they would then need additional employees. It would be foolish to think that if a person needed an auto and they were wanting to purchase a GM car and GM ceased production they would never purchase an auto from any other source.

arnmcrmn

Big Dog doesn't provide proof or valid statements. He just posts 4-5 words that typically make no sense.

Finn Finn

I've been saying that all along. His postings never go beyond "Democrats good, Republicans bad". I've noticed more and more people completely ignoring his grade school comments. Keep up the good work.

ladydye_5

Wow, I have less income now that a few years ago, hubby lost his job to the state of ohio running out of money. I drive 2, 13 year old cars but have NO money to buy a new one. Heck who CAN afford the new ones. I can barely afford the gas, but cannot afford a HYBRID, green car either. Heck I still don't even know how much "plugging my car in to charge" will make my electric bill go up too! I would love to know where the experts get all the "good news" information!

gilamonster

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).

KnuckleDragger

I'm still wondering why they consider still consider Chrysler a US automaker. Chrysler is now an Italian car company. Why don't the AP Obama just say it like they mean it, it's a UAW shop, so they feel it should be given higher consideration, despite the fact that it is still a foreign car company. Either way, domestically owned cars are way too expensive. Until they can get the price down, I will continue to drive my used cars until they can't be driven anymore. I consider it a bad investment to throw $30+K into something that depreciates in value $5K as soon as you drive to of the lot. You get more bang for your buck with a used vehicle that someone else already took the depreciation hit on.

Contango

@ KD:

The union VEBA that owns shares in Chrysler wanted to float an IPO.

Fiat is delaying them. I suspect that the VEBA is in trouble and needs cash.

"Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne told reporters Fiat would end up owning all of Chrysler, one way or another."

IMO, this is gonna get ugly.

http://www.detroitnews.com/artic...

my oh my

WTG Toyota bring it on..

OhioFreebyrd's picture
OhioFreebyrd

I bet Remmington , Ruger, S & W, etc. posted a "boost" in sales too

goofus

Knuckledragger: Don't tell Kimo about used cars, he buys new for cash LOL
OhioFreebyrd: Gun sales have exploded through the roof under Obozo!!!!

KnuckleDragger

LOL. He must feel good then, after plopping down $30K and taking an immediate $5K hit. Good thing I don't take investment advice from him.

The Big Dog's back

Go President "O". :)

arnmcrmn

When do the taxpayers get all the money the Feds dumped into the auto bailout back? Still waiting!!!!

Contango

Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said that they were looking for a third partner.

Both Fiat and Chrysler are too weak financially to make it.

Got a suspicion that is why he’s been shifting some Chrysler production to China.

Fiat-Chrysler and some as yet unnamed Chinese car co.?

Only a dopey Obama tool will love that! :)

How about: Ménage à trois Motors?

kURTje

Bailouts? How about handouts? This one has been going on since the 30's. Time to stop it. ewg.org That's OUR money.