Ford led the pack with a 22% gain to 166,501 vehicles, its best January since 2006.
"Ford is off to a strong start this year, with Fusion and Escape delivering January sales records and F-Series seeing a particularly strong reception this early in the year," sales chief Ken Czubay said. "Our investment in fuel-efficient new vehicles -- including EcoBoost engines and hybrid technology -- continues to pay off."
Chrysler posted its 34th consecutive month of gains as US sales rose 16% to 101,149 vehicles, the company's best January since 2008.
"It's been a good week for the Chrysler Group," sales chief Reid Bigland said."On Wednesday we announced full year 2012 profits of $1.7 billion and followed that today with our January sales up 16%."
Meanwhile, GM's US sales rose 16% from a year ago to 194,699 vehicles.
"The year is off to a very good start for General Motors," sales chief Kurt McNeil said. "There's a sense of optimism among our dealers that only comes when you pair a growing economy with great new products."
GM forecast the industry sales pace would come in at an adjusted, annualized rate of 15.3 million vehicles once all automakers have reported.
That's down slightly from the 15.4 million pace posted in December, but up sharply from 14 million in January 2012.
Chrysler was more optimistic, forecasting a sales pace of 15.5 million vehicles.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013