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What Fueled Record January Auto Sales?

Anne Rippy | Riser | Getty Images

So much for auto sales slowing down in January.

As the automakers reported their sales for the start of the year it became clear the combination of pent-up demand and a slowly improving economy are driving more people into the showroom.

  • BMW up 5.8%
  • Chrysler up 44%
  • Ford up 7.4%
  • GM down 6.1%
  • Honda up 8.8%
  • Hyundai up 15%
  • Mercedes up 25.8%
  • Nissan up 10.4%
  • Toyota up 7.5%
  • VW up 47.9%

Some of these numbers stand out more than others.

  • Volkswagen: Reporting its best January sales since 1974. Back then, the Bug was fueling sales and now it’s the redesigned Passat.
  • Hyundai: Okay, this is starting to sound like a broken record. The Korean automaker reported its best January ever, in large part due to the red-hot Elantra.
  • Chrysler: The once-bankrupt automaker saw sales for all four of its brands report double-digit gains. What’s more notable: CEO Sergio Marchionne says this is just the start. The big product push will come next year.

The consensus in the auto industry is that sales this year will be close to a rate of 14 million vehicles. If January is any indication, it’s easy to see why: Dealers are reporting steady traffic from buyers looking to unload their older cars.

What’s encouraging for the automakers is the fact they’ve been able to hold the line on production. Automakers are not overbuilding and only increasing production when demand requires it. This shows restraint at a time when automakers have pricing power and could be easily tempted to flood the market.

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