January Auto Sales: What to Expect

DETROIT ( TheStreet) -- Forget Ford's ( F) disappointing earnings report -- January was a good month for automakers.

Sales figures released Tuesday are expected to show that January new car sales increased by 17% to 18%.

>>Ford: What Analysts Are Saying Now

"January's sales figures continue a trend of steady, sustainable growth for the auto industry," said Edmunds.com analyst Jessica Caldwell in a prepared statement. "January is typically the worst sales month of the calendar year, so this is an impressive jumping off point for 2011. Because this year's January baseline is so much higher than the last two years, car makers can be reasonably optimistic that this growth can continue."

Big gainers, according to Edmunds, will likely be Chrysler, up 32%; Toyota ( TM), up 19% and Honda ( HMC), up 21%.

Ford sales are expected to rise 13%, with GM ( GM) up 11%.

The numbers would give Ford a 15.8% market share, down from 16.5% a year earlier and down from 16.4% in December. GM's share would be 19.9%, down from 21% a year earlier but up from 19.7% in December.

Edmunds.com analysts predict that January's seasonally-adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) will be 12.57 million, up from 12.48 in December 2010.

TrueCar.com, which is making generally similar projections, anticipates that retail sales will increase by 25% from a year earlier, while declining 28% compared with December. TrueCar said average incentive spending will be up about 1% from a year earlier.

The year "is off to a good start as the continued increase in retail sales from the same time period last year indicates that consumers are coming back to the showrooms," said TrueCar analyst Jesse Toprak in a prepared statement. "The recovery in auto sales is fueled not only by pent-up demand but also by compelling new products and relative improvements in consumer confidence."

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Ted Reed

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