Toyota and Ford led the four largest automakers by U.S. sales in reporting January gains that topped estimates, as buyers return to showrooms to begin a fourth consecutive year of growth.
Toyota’s deliveries of cars and light trucks surged 27 percent and Ford’s climbed 22 percent, while General Motors and Chrysler sales each rose 16 percent, according to company statements issued Friday. Industrywide light-vehicle sales increased 14 percent, according to researcher Autodata Corp.
Consumers are replacing cars and trucks that have aged to about 11 years on average after deferring purchases of new autos during the nation’s slow recovery from the recession that ended in 2009. The demand is spurring carmakers to increase hiring and domestic production.
Toyota exceeded eight analysts’ average estimate for a 22 percent gain.
GM climbed 0.3 percent to $28.17 at the close in New York and Ford rose 0.5 percent to $13.02. Toyota’s American depositary receipts increased 2.9 percent to $98.13 and Honda’s ADRs gained 2.5 percent to $38.62.
Ford’s subcompact, compact and midsize cars all increased sales in the same month for the first time since June 2011. The company’s deliveries of F-Series pickups surged 22 percent to 46,841.
Sales for Chrysler, majority owned by Fiat SpA of Italy, climbed to 117,731 cars and light trucks from 101,149 a year earlier, led by demand for its Dodge models. The Dodge Dart compact had its best month since its introduction in June.
Chrysler plans to boost production to 2.6 million vehicles in 2013, from 2.4 million last year and 2 million in 2011. The company’s sales gain in January extended Chrysler’s stretch of year-over-year increases to 34 months.
The auto industry contributed 14 percent of the 2.1 percent average rate of growth for gross domestic product in the recovery that began in the third quarter of 2009 to the fourth quarter of 2012, according to data from the Commerce Department.
GM’s deliveries of Chevrolet Silverado pickups climbed 32 percent to 35,445 while sales for the GMC Sierra truck increased 35 percent to 12,846. GM said inventory of full-size pickups still rose 5.7 percent from Dec. 31 to 234,342, or 117 days supply.
GM is “very comfortable” with its inventory levels as part of plans to prepare truck factories to build revamped Silverados and Sierras for the 2014 model year, said Kurt McNeil, the company’s vice president of U.S. sales operations.
Automakers in 2012 sold the most cars and light trucks in the U.S. in five years. GM, Ford and Toyota will lead a U.S. auto market that probably will climb to 15.1 million vehicle sales this year, the average of 18 estimates, from 14.5 million in 2012.
GM shares gained 43 percent for the past six months, far outpacing the Standard & Poor’s 500 index’s 10 percent increase. Over the same period, Ford rose 44 percent and Toyota shares added 50 percent.
U.S. light-vehicle sales began the year with a 14 percent increase in January to 1.04 million, according to Autodata. The annualized industry sales rate for January, which is adjusted for seasonal trends, was 15.3 million, topping the 15.2 million average estimate of 17 analysts.
Honda and Nissan sales rose less than analysts’ average estimates. Honda deliveries rose 13 percent to 93,626 vehicles in January, trailing eight analysts’ average estimate for an increase of 21 percent.
Sales of the Accord surged 75 percent to 23,924, offsetting the CR-V sport utility vehicle’s 6.1 percent drop to 17,809.
Nissan sales rose 2 percent last month to 80,919, the company said, missing the 3.5 percent increase that was the average of seven estimates. Deliveries of the Altima fell 4 percent to 21,464, while Pathfinder SUV sales more than tripled to 6,281.
AutoNation Inc., the largest retailer of new vehicles in the U.S., said Thursday that its January sales probably rose at least 15 percent. The company is taking trade-ins from customers who delayed auto purchases and racked up more than 150,000 miles on their cars and trucks, Chief Executive Officer Mike Jackson said.
“The mindset of the consumer is ‘I put my life on hold in ’08, ’09, ’10, ’ ” Jackson said.
Hyundai and Kia combined to sell 2.3 percent more vehicles in January than a year earlier, missing six analysts’ average estimate of 7.4 percent. Deliveries of the Sonata, Hyundai’s top-selling model, slipped 8.6 percent to 13,247. Kia’s Optima sales surged 28 percent to 11,252.
Volkswagen boosted deliveries of VW and Audi brand vehicles in January by 6.9 percent, falling short of the 20 percent average estimate of four analysts. The company’s sales of its top seller, the Jetta sedan, slipped 4 percent to 10,522, while Passat deliveries rose 40 percent to 8,856.