Sales of Chrysler's cars and trucks increased for the 34th consecutive month in January as sales went up 16% and a broad, but gradual, economic recovery continued to boost automotive demand nationwide.
It was the Auburn Hills automaker's best January sales in five years. Sales increased 37% for its Dodge brand, 31% for Fiat, 18% for Chrysler 14% for Ram, while Jeep sales fell 4%.
Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne warned earlier this week that Jeep sales could decline over the first half of this year because the company has stopped producing its Jeep Liberty SUV to prepare for its replacement.
Dodge sold 7,154 Darts, the most since the compact car was launched last summer, and sales of the Chrysler 200 midsize sedan increased 26%.
"Entering 2013 our product portfolio has never been stronger," Reid Bigland, Chrysler's head of U.S. sales and CEO of the Dodge brand.
Industry analysts expect total industry sales to increase more than 14% in January. The automotive industry continues to benefit from consumers who are returning to the market after sitting on the sidelines during the recession that are being lured back by low interest rates and growing confidence in the economy.
"January is off to an amazing start and this momentum will carry forward through the rest of the year with auto sales expected to reach 15.5 million units," said Jesse Toprak, senior analyst for TrueCar.com said in a recent report.
In 2012, total industry sales increased 13.4% to 14.5 million. This year, analysts predict the industry will sell more than 15 million cars and trucks in the U.S.
That makes North America a bright spot compared with Europe, where the industry continues to grapple with overcapacity and a recession that has gripped many of its countries.
"The global industry is looking for the United States to offset risk in Europe and potentially slower growth in the emerging markets in 2013," said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive said in a recent report. "The good news is that the U.S. market is primed to over-deliver as the recovery heats up."
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