DETROIT — U.S. automakers said new-vehicle sales in the United States rose sharply in January, raising expectations that the industry’s steady recovery would accelerate in 2013.
General Motors, the largest of the Detroit auto companies, said it sold 194,000 cars and trucks during the month, a 15.9 percent increase over the same period a year ago. The company said all four of its brands – Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick – had double-digit increases in January.
GM also rebounded from tepid sales of its core pickup trucks in recent months. The company said sales of its Chevrolet Silverado pickup increased 32 percent compared to January 2012, and sales of the GMC Sierra improved 35 percent.
“The year is off to a very good start for General Motors,” said Kurt McNeil, head of GM’s U.S. sales operations. “There’s a sense of optimism among our dealers that only comes when you pair a growing economy with great new products.”
Last year, the overall U.S. auto industry had its best performance in five years with sales of 14.5 million vehicles – a 13 percent increase over 2011.
Automakers and industry analysts are forecasting sales this year to be as high as 15.5 million vehicles. The optimistic projections were in part because of a growing need by consumers to replace aging vehicles, as well as improvements in the economy.
Ford Motor Co., the second-biggest of the Detroit automakers, said its sales in January rose 21.8 percent to 166,000 vehicles.
Ford reported that its passenger cars did particularly well, with an increase for the month of 34.1 percent. Sales of the recently redesigned Ford Fusion midsize sedan increased 64.5 percent.
Executives at Ford said the company expects consumer demand to consistently grow in 2013.
“The biggest driver of the year is going to be replacement,” said Ken Czubay, Ford’s U.S. sales and marketing chief.
Chrysler, the smallest U.S. car company, said it sold 117,000 vehicles in January. That was a 16.3 percent increase over the same month in 2012 and extended Chrysler’s year-over-year sales gains to 34 consecutive months.
Chrysler said sales of cars rose about 50 percent during the month, while sales of SUVs and trucks increased by 3 percent. Its new small car, the Dodge Dart, had its best performance since being introduced last summer, the company said.
Toyota, the largest Japanese automaker, said its sales in January grew 26.6 percent to 157,000 vehicles.