NEW YORK - Automakers reported Tuesday large gains in January U.S. sales as the improving economy and low fuel prices kept demand high for larger vehicles.
About 1.15 million cars and light trucks were sold in the first month of the year, an increase of 9.3% from a year ago and the best monthly performance since 2006, according to industry consultant Autodata.
The blazing performance came after a banner 2014 for U.S. sales. At more than 16.5 million vehicles, it was the auto industry's best year since 2006, just before the economy began sinking into crisis and recession.
General Motors (IW 500/5), the largest U.S. automaker, said its U.S. sales jumped 18% in January from a year ago, with big gains in its Silverado pickup truck and GMC line of sports utility vehicles. Total sales were 202,786.
January U.S. auto sales are best in 7 years. Canada's sales also rise. http://t.co/5dJCaeLVLk— Bloomberg Canada (@BBGCanada) February 3, 2015
"Consumers feel very good because more people are working, the U.S. economy is expanding and fuel prices are low," said Kurt McNeil, GM's U.S. vice president of sales.
"Consumer and commercial demand for trucks and crossovers is really driving our business."
Consumers paid an average $2.07 per gallon (3.8 liters) of gasoline at the pump Tuesday, compared with $3.28 dollars a year ago.
Edmunds.com also said the January results showed the benefit of "unusually favorable" financing conditions, thanks to low interest rates.
Ford Motor (IW 500/6) said sales rose 15%, with the number-two U.S. automaker notching large gains for the Focus and Mustang cars, as well as many SUVs and trucks. Total sales were 178,351.
Consumers feel very good because more people are working, the U.S. economy is expanding and fuel prices are low." - Kurt McNeil, GM U.S. VP sales
The automaker pointed to robust demand for its new aluminum-bodied F-150, which is averaging 12 days on dealer lots.
JPMorgan Chase said both GM and Ford exceeded expectations in their January sales.
January sales at FCA U.S., the U.S. arm of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (IW 1000/27), rose 14% to 145,007, due to solid gains in its Jeep brand and Ram trucks.
Toyota Motors (IW 1000/8), the Japanese global giant, said its January sales in the U.S. grew 16% to 169,194 units behind a strong performance for its signature Corolla, RAV4 SUV and other models.
European automakers also reported firm gains, led by German firms Audi (IW 1000/59) (+14%), Mercedes-Benz (+9%) and BMW (+4.0%).
The average price of a new vehicle rose 5.2% from January 2014 to $33,993, according to Kelley Blue Book.
But with fuel prices low, sales of energy-saving models continued to slump. GM's electric hybrid sales plunged 41%, while those of Tesla's (IW 500/384) luxury electric cars dropped 33%.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015