This month's new vehicle sales (including fleet) in the United States are expected to be down 30.1% year on year to 730,000 units, analysts at Edmunds.com have forecast.

Adjusted for selling days, sales are forecast down 32.8%. A 730,000-unit January tally would be 18.1% down on December's count.

"Our research indicates that retail sales are pretty much flat compared with December," said Edmunds' industry analysis head Jesse Toprak.

"However, automakers' decision to cut fleet sales and make other production cuts will cause a large sales decline to be recorded on the books."

January 2009 has 26 selling days, one more than a year ago.

Edmunds is forecasting Chrysler volume off 50% (unadjusted for selling days), GM 40.4% and Ford, 32.5%.

Nissan sales are seen down 30.9%, Toyota, 27.4% and Honda, 25.9%.

"Given the dramatic downturn in car sales since September, it is reasonable to assume there must be an underlying demand building," said Edmunds senior analyst David Tompkins.

"Edmunds.com site traffic behaviour in January reflected a 13% increase in purchase intent compared with December, so within the next six weeks we should begin seeing those sales come through - though perhaps some will manifest themselves as late-model used car sales."

The combined monthly U.S. market share for Chrysler, Ford and General Motors (GM) domestic brands is estimated to be 46.1% in January 2009, down from 52.1% in January 2008 and down from 50.0% in December 2008.

"It's a good thing that many automakers have been deliberately minimising their fleet sales in an effort to bolster resale values," said Michelle Krebs, who edits Edmunds' AutoObserver.com.

"Unfortunately, in this economy, rental car companies and other traditional fleet customers are simply unable to buy as many cars as they used to."

Edmunds.com predicts Chrysler will sell 71,000 units for a new car market share of 9.8% this month, down from 13.1% in January 2008 and down from 10.0% last month.

Ford will sell 109,000 units, down 29.8% year on year and off 19.4% from last month, for 15.0% share, up slightly from 14.9% last year and from 15.2% last month.

GM will sell 156,000 units, down 38.0% compared to January 2008 and down 29.3% from December 2008, Edmunds said. GM's market share is forecast at 21.3%, down from 24.1% a year ago and down from 24.7% last month.

Honda will sell 76,000 units in January (10.4% share), Nissan, 55,000 units (7.5%), and Toyota, 130,000 units (17.8% share).