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Detroit, Toyota report big U.S. sales gains in January

Analysts credit stronger stock market, better bank rates for growth in car sales.
By TOM KRISHER and DEE-ANN DURBIN Published: February 2, 2013

— American consumers ignored tax increases and trudged through winter weather to buy new cars and trucks at an unusually strong pace last month. It was the auto industry's best January since 2008.

U.S. auto sales rose 14 percent to more than 1 million. Toyota's 27 percent gain was the biggest among the major car companies. Ford's sales jumped 22 percent, while GM and Chrysler each reported 16 percent gains compared with a year earlier.

The results left the industry optimistic. Businesses bought more trucks. Consumers are ready to buy and banks are offering low interest rates and looser credit terms.

The stock market may also have inspired car buyers. The Standard & Poor's 500 index had its strongest January since 1997, and new-car purchases tend to rise or fall with the market. Also, employers have been hiring at a steady pace.

“We're in a fundamentally sound trajectory,” said Mustafa Mohatarem, chief economist for GM.

Whatever the incentive, people didn't let chilly weather, or the heavier hand of the U.S. Treasury, stop them from car shopping.

Sales ran at an annual pace of 15.3 million in January. If that holds for the rest of the year, automakers will sell nearly 1 million more vehicles than in 2012.

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