Industry wide, U.S. sales rose 17% in January, an annual sales pace equal to 12.6 million vehicles when seasonal factors are taken into account, according to sales tracker Autodata. About 820,000 total vehicles sold in the month, which is the best January tally in three years.
"You can't get those kind of numbers without consumer demand," said Jesse Toprak, vice president of industry trends at TrueCar.com.
January is typically a slow month for auto sales, and the robust performance last month raised hopes that 2011 could mark a turnaround for the auto industry.
"The very positive sales news being issued by many automakers today is further proof of the suspected thaw in this once-frigid sector of our general economy," said James Bell, a market analyst at Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com.
But the industry is still recovering from the recession, when sales evaporated, and GM and Chrysler were forced into bankruptcy.