) -- The Detroit Three roared into 2013 as each of the three auto manufacturers reported double-digit sales gains in January, continuing the auto industry's leading role in the slowly growing economy.
(F - Get Report)
sales rose 22%, while
(GM - Get Report)
both reported 16% increases.
GM noted that while total industry sales were up about 14% from a year earlier, January sales rose 27% from the same month in 2011 and 50% from January 2010.
A strong point for Ford was that Fusion sales rose 64.5% to 22,339. In recent months, a lack of availability had restrained sales of the 2013 Fusion. GM reported gains at every brand including a 32% gain at Buick and a 47% gain at Cadillac, where the new ATS, the car of the year, sold 2,781 units. Chevrolet sales rose 11% and GMC sales rose 23%.
At Chrysler, in a rare display of sales growth, only one current vehicle showed a monthly sales decline, as sales of the Dodge Caravan fell 29% to 4,965 units.
"Despite the Grand Caravan numbers, we're very pleased with our January sales numbers," said Chrysler spokesman Ralph Kisiel. "January generally can be a slow month following in the wake of December, with all of its year-end deals."
Ford said sales of cars rose 34%, while utilities gained 23% and trucks rose 11%. Escape had its best January ever, with sales up 16%, while Explorer sales rose 46% and F-Series sales rose 22% to 46,841. Retail sales rose 24%.
"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," said sales chief Ken Czubay in a prepared statement.
GM said retail sales rose 24% while fleet sales fell 2%.
"The year is off to a very good start for General Motors," said Kurt McNeil, vice president of U.S. sales operations, in a prepared statement. "There's a sense of optimism among our dealers that only comes when you pair a growing economy with great new products." Gains by Chevrolet Sonic, ATS and Buick Verano indicate that "we're entering the sweet spot of our product plan in a growing economy," McNeil said.
reported its best January in five years. The Chrysler, Dodge, Ram and Fiat brands all posted gains, led by a 37% gain at Dodge, while Jeep brand sales fell 4% as sales of the discontinued Liberty fell 70% to 2,035.
Sales of the Ram pickup, Chrysler's best-selling vehicle, rose 14% to 20,474, while sales of the new compact Dart totaled 7,154.
"It's been a good week for the Chrysler Group," said Reid Bigland, head of U.S. sales, in a prepared statement. "On Wednesday we announced full year 2012 profits of $1.7 billion and followed that today with our January sales, up 16%, marking our 34th consecutive month of year-over-year sales growth."
-- Written by Ted Reed