(Photo: MARK RALSTON AFP/Getty Images)
USA TODAY - Automakers got off to a huge sales start for the year, with General Motors (GM) , Ford Motor (F) and Chrysler (C) all reporting solid sales gains in January.
Toyota trumped all three with a 26.6% increase in monthly sales. One exception: Volkswagen, which had been on a sales tear in recent months, posted a 6.7% gain for the month.
Ford reported a 22% sales gain over the same month last year. GM and Chrysler said they were up 16% compared to January 2012.
They cited great sales across the board, from pickup trucks to small cars. Best of all for profitability, they say they are selling more cars to individual customers.
However, consumers are paying higher prices on average for new vehicles. The average new vehicle sold for $30,812 last month, up $300 from the same month a year ago, car shopping service TrueCar.com reports.
GM said it estimates a 14% sales increase for the industry overall, putting automakers on track for sales of about 15 million vehicles this year. That's 1 million below the 16 million vehicles sold in the industry's best years just before the recession began in 2007.
Buyers benefited from discounts. Average incentives were $2,372 per new vehicle, down only 0.4% in January from December, when buyers perceived they would get big discounts as dealers took one last shot at a big sales year. For the same two months last year, incentives fell 7.2%, according to car research site Edmunds.com.
"Car shoppers will be glad to know that vehicle incentives haven't dipped much from December's year-end deals, as bargain-hunting is on the rise," says Edmunds.com Senior Analyst Jessica Caldwell. "People are starting to notice their paychecks are less than they were in 2012 because of the payroll tax, and that will make good deals more attractive to anyone in the market."
How automakers are stacking up:
General Motors - The nation's largest automaker says its Cadillac division saw big gains and its best record of sales to individual customers in 23 years. Its Buick division saw strong sales of its Verano and Enclave.
Ford - The Fusion sedan and Escape crossover continue to be the bulwark of the lineup. Both posted strong sales gains.
Chrysler - The Fiat-controlled automakers says it saw gains in each of its divisions. Even Dodge Dart, a sore point since it didn't start selling as well as expected, it showing strength.
Honda - The new Accord powered sales, but the Acura division fared well, too. Overall, Honda gainede 12.7%. Nissan - The brand gained 2% for the month, with the new Pathfinder crossover leading the way.
Hyundai - The leading South Korean brand saw a modest increase, but it was good for another January record. Elantra gained a little and Sonata lost a little in sales compared to a year ago.
(Copyright © 2013 USA TODAY)