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Chrysler leads US auto sales growth in January, GM sales drop

Chrysler led US auto sales growth in January with an impressive 44 percent jump that far outpaced a modest seven percent gain at rival Ford (NYSE:F) and a six percent drop for GM (NYSE:GM), according to industry data released Wednesday.

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Chrysler led US auto sales growth in January with an impressive 44 percent jump that far outpaced a modest seven percent gain at rival Ford (NYSE:F) and a six percent drop for GM (NYSE:GM), according to industry data released Wednesday.

It was Chrysler's 22nd consecutive month of gains and eighth month in a row of growth that came in at 20 percent or higher.

Chrysler's head of US sales, Reid Bigland, said: "We started the new year with a bang. In January we continued building on the sales momentum that we generated during 2011 with our 16 all-new or significantly-refreshed products."

The strong sales results come as Chrysler posted its first annual profit since emerging from a government-backed bankruptcy in 2009 and vowed to multiply profits eight times in 2012 to around $1.5 billion.

January's sales of 101,149 vehicle were driven largely by strong sedan sales -- which jumped 137 percent from a year earlier -- but truck sales were also strong, rising 25 percent.

Ford also posted its best January since 2008, the beginning of a deep economic downturn, as sales rose 7.4 percent to 136,710 vehicles.

Car sales also drove Ford's gains, with the Focus contributing to 30 percent of January's growth after rising 60 percent to 14,400.

But with weakness in other sedans, total Ford car sales rose just 2.4 percent while sport utility sales grew 12.2 percent and truck sales rose 7.9 percent.

GM - the largest US automaker - reported a six percent drop in US auto sales in January.

The auto giant said sales totaled 167,962 vehicles in January. Some analysts had expected GM to report a nine percent drop.

GM's US sales chief Don Johnson said: "In 2012, we will strengthen our position with more new products, an even better dealership experience and reinforce the disciplined 'go to market' strategy that helped us grow profitably in the United States in 2011."

GM predicted that light vehicle sales in 2012 would range from 13.5 to 14 million.

Meanwhile, Germany's Volkswagen, which is making an aggressive push into the US market, posted a 47.9 percent gain in January to 27,209 vehicles.

Volkswagen's US head Jonathan Browning said: "We ended 2011 strong and are seeing the momentum continue into 2012 with a 47.9 percent increase, demonstrating our growth strategy continues to take root."

Total US sales are forecast to grow 5.8 percent to 866,655 vehicles in January, according to Edmunds.com.

However, the seasonally adjusted, annualized sales rate is expected to come in essentially flat compared with December at 13.5 million vehicles.

Japanese car maker Nissan said its US sales rose 10.4 percent in January to 79,313.

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