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February 2, 2011

US SALES: Severe weather didn’t keep buyers away

Severe weather in the US didn’t take too much of a toll on January light vehicle sales. The seasonally adjusted annualised rate (SAAR) came in at 12.62m, nearly 2m units ahead of last January and the fourth month in a row it has been above 12.25m. Ward’s reported better than 816,000 cars and light trucks were sold or leased, up 17.2% over last year.

Severe weather in the US didn’t take too much of a toll on January light vehicle sales. The seasonally adjusted annualised rate (SAAR) came in at 12.62m, nearly 2m units ahead of last January and the fourth month in a row it has been above 12.25m. Ward’s reported better than 816,000 cars and light trucks were sold or leased, up 17.2% over last year.

GM was the big winner with sales up 22.7% and the largest volume increase, topped off by an additional point of market share. Top 10 sales of the new Ohio-assembled Chevy Cruze and Cadillac’s 49.1% jump were among the drivers as were large SUVs and pickups. On the green front, Chevy delivered 321 Volt hybrids last month.

Ford sales rose 12.7%, below market expectations but good enough for second place. Ford brand results were strong, up 21.6%, but Lincoln’s 21.0% drop and the leftovers from now-defunct Mercury hurt Ford’s figures. The Fusion and Escape set new January records and sales of the new Explorer increased 73.1%.

Chrysler gained another half point of market share as sales rose 23.7%. Jeep sales climbed 46.9%, led by a 129.9% leap for the new Grand Cherokee. The Dodge Caravan rode an 81.8% gain to the top of the minivan market. Challenger sales were up 50.1% making it the only pony car to beat its year ago numbers.

Toyota brand sales had a strong finish, up 23.7%, but those results were dragged down by Lexus’ 17.1% slump. Tundra pickup sales jumped 55.9% and those of the Sienna minivan rocketed up 145.7%.

Honda’s modest 13.0% improvement cost it 0.4 points of market share as the Accord, the best-selling car last January, tumbled to 9th in Ward’s top 10 rankings. Sales of the Fit, Odyssey and CR-V were up as were Acura’s.

Nissan surpassed Chrysler and nearly caught Honda. Both divisions of Nissan North America finished in the black with the Versa and Rogue posting solid gains.

Among the second tier Japanese automakers, a cutback in fleet sales left Mazda as January’s weakest link with the industry’s largest volume and percentage drops. Mitsubishi enjoyed the largest percentage gain, coming in 37.0% ahead of January 2010. Subaru set another monthly sales record.

Hyundai and Kia both reported new January records with sales of the new Sonata and Soul each up by more than 149%.

On the European front, Audi set its own January record with an improvement nearly 10 times better than parent company Volkswagen’s. BMW posted a 20.8% improvement, but Mercedes beat it to the top of the luxury segment with sales up 11.4%. Even Smart announced a modest improvement. Porsche, Saab and Volvo all came in ahead of last January and Jaguar beat its year ago numbers by 48.2%. Land Rover sales rose 16.0%.

America’s appetite for light trucks is still strong. They claimed 53.4% of January sales, 4.6% more than last year. Pickup sales remain healthy, accounting for 11.5% of the market.

January also saw a sizable reduction in fleet sales: growth was primarily retail-driven; always good thing for the bottom line.

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