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Chill it now, but hold the champagne for later

Post Polar Vortex, check the SAAR

Skip the headlines. Ignore the gaudy 14 percent gain. January was a solid auto sales month, not a great one.

Of course, U.S. auto sales jumped 14 percent compared with January 2014. If you can’t outsell the month of the Polar Vortex (cue the boxing arena announcer: “POH-lar VORRRR-TEX”), you’re in real trouble.

The 16.7 million seasonally adjusted annual selling rate is the reality to focus on. We’re starting the year on a pace to sell slightly more than 2014’s 16.5 million units.

January was an easy comparable to beat. February will be, too, because last year it was another rotten month -- bitterly cold and stormy everywhere east of the Rockies.

But that’s the last easy comparable the rest of the year. After February, every other monthly SAAR in 2014 was above 16 million.

We should feel good about January staying on track. There is every reason to believe 2015 will extend the U.S. auto industry’s sales growth to a sixth straight year, a string not matched since the 1920s.

But growth this year comes harder than in any of the previous five.

So tuck the champagne away for later. Pour a fresh cup of joe. We’ve got work ahead.

You can reach Jesse Snyder at jsnyder@autonews.com -- Follow Jesse on Twitter: https://twitter.com/spartyjesse

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