After 2012 ended on a high note, automakers were looking to keep their momentum going in January, and for the most part that's what happened. The seasonally adjusted industry sales rate topped 15 million units, with January's sales running 14 percent ahead of January 2012.
The market appears to be growing at both ends: trucks are benefiting from an improving economic picture (particularly a fast-improving housing market), and small cars and hybrids are getting a boost from high gasoline prices. New entries are helping other manufacturers. With the average age of cars on the road estimated at 11 years, replacement demand is likely to remain strong, and with good credit availability, buyers should be able to finance those new cars. In the words of General Motors' chief economist, Mustafa Mohatarem, the auto industry is "in a fundamentally sound trajectory." That sounds pretty good.
PERCENTAGES ARE JANUARY 2013 SALES RESULTS vs. JANUARY 2012
GENERAL MOTORS +16%
General Motors wasn't looking particularly strong toward the end of 2012 but was hopeful that its new pickups and the new Chevy Impala would help it power up in 2013. Those products aren't yet in dealerships, but the General nonetheless got a good start out of the gate this year.
It's still the old model, but the Silverado (+32%) benefited from the surge in pickup sales. The same could not be said of the Colorado, however (-71%). The fleet-only Captiva Sport jumped (+74%). Fuel-sippers on the upswing included the Sonic (+26%) and the Volt (+89%) but not the Cruze (-4%). And, strangely, Corvette sales surged 44% despite the reveal of the new C7.
The arrival of the ATS and the XTS made a huge difference for Cadillac. The ATS has become the division's bestselling sedan, passing the CTS (-17%). The SRX (+5%) remains Cadillac's most popular product overall.
A big month for the Verano -- 3660 units, slightly more than the LaCrosse -- and a nice boost for the freshly tweaked Enclave (+57%) gave Buick a big increase overall. The only troubling note was sinking Regal sales (-46%).
Like the Silverado, the Sierra (+35%) rode the big-pickup wave. The Terrain SUV (+51%) and the big vans also had a good month. Like the Colorado, the Canyon (-72%) fell hard.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY +22%
Ford, like General Motors, started off the new year by taking back some market share, with an increase that outpaced the market overall. As ever, the franchise F-series was part and parcel of that increase, but Ford's small and midsize cars did well, too. Not so the Lincoln division, whose hoped-for comeback has yet to get into gear.
The F-series continued its winning streak, and rebounding work-truck sales also were reflected in increased demand for Ford's big vans and the Transit Connect (+47%). On the car side, the Fusion came roaring back (+65%) to retake the title of bestselling non-pickup Ford. Small cars looked good: Fiesta (+22%), Focus (+12%), and the new C-Max (2725 units). All Ford models outpaced last year, with the lone exception of the Mustang (-3%).
The much-anticipated new MKZ has been late arriving to Lincoln showrooms, and its resultant sales fall-off dragged down Lincoln this month. Other models fared better: MKT (+47%), MKS (+23%), and MKX (+11%).
TOYOTA MOTOR SALES +27%
Toyota came back big last year, and it extended that performance into the first month of 2013 with a January sales increase that exactly matched the one Toyota enjoyed in 2012.
Toyota wouldn't be able to maintain its momentum without the Camry (+13%), and the mainstay midsize did not disappoint, once again taking bestselling car honors. The ancient Corolla/Matrix (+32%) was the number five nameplate overall, which is frankly remarkable. The expanded Prius family (+37%) benefited from increased interest in fuel-sippers, but the Yaris (-4%) did not. The new Avalon saw its sales increase by half, as did the not-so-new 4Runner.
The new ES more than doubled its year-ago total, and the LS finally had a good -- make that very good -- month (+88%). The CT (-2%) and the IS (-23%) were down, and Lexus also delivered its last LFA, one of three sold in January.
The FR-S continues to be the bestselling Scion, which is pretty cool. It accounted for virtually all of the brand's increase. The other Scions appear to be losing some of their cool, as all but the xB were down versus a year ago.