Chrysler volume rises 8% on SUVs, pickups

Inventories at highest level since 2009

The 2014 Jeep Cherokee, which went on sale in October, outsold the Wrangler for the second consecutive month. Photo credit: SEAN GAGNIER

Strong sales of SUVs, pickups and minivans helped Chrysler Group post an 8 percent U.S. sales gain in January, despite bad weather, rising inventories and weak Dodge numbers.

The automaker sold 127,183 vehicles last month in the United States, its 46th consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains.

Bad weather in much of the country likely improved sales of the company's SUVs. Jeep sales rose 38 percent, with the Compass, Patriot and Wrangler all setting January sales records. The 2014 Jeep Cherokee, which went on sale in October, outsold the Wrangler for the second consecutive month.

Ram brand sales increased 24 percent, with pickup sales up 22 percent. Light-duty pickup sales rose 17 percent, while Ram heavy-duty pickups climbed 35 percent.

Extra dealer and consumer cash for the 500 minicar helped Fiat post a 29 percent increase. In every month since the larger 500L was introduced in June, 500 sales fell — until January, when they were flat.

Sales of the Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country rose in January, but their brands were headed in different directions. Chrysler brand sales increased 2 percent, while Dodge sales fell 19 percent.

The company finished the month with a 105-day supply of unsold inventory on dealer lots, its highest level since emerging from bankruptcy in 2009. Sixty days is considered normal for the industry.

A spokesman said the inflated inventory levels were caused by stockpiling of 2014 Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger sedans. The plant that assembles those vehicles is preparing to switch over to their replacement, the redesigned 2015 Chrysler 200.

You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at -- Follow Larry P. on Twitter: @LarryVellequett

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