DETROIT -- Fueled by unexpected sales gains at Ford Motor Co. and General Motors, U.S. auto sales rose 7.5 percent in January from a year earlier to 1.14 million units.
Analysts had predicted that January would be another month of bad news for the two domestic automakers. But GM's U.S. sales increased 6.0 percent, while Ford's U.S. sales rose 1.9 percent compared with January 2005.
The first month of the year also was strong for Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc., which posted a 14 percent sales gain, and American Honda Motor Co., which saw sales rise 20.7 percent. DaimlerChrysler's U.S. sales rose 4.8 percent in the month.
GM said its sales of full-sized SUVs grew 23 percent in January. But total light-truck sales for the automaker fell 0.3 percent compared with January 2005. Car sales were up 14.6 percent to 134,467 units, GM said.
The Pontiac, Saab and Saturn brands all posted double-digit percentage sales increases for the month. Conversely, GMC sales fell 12.2 percent in January.
Ford Motor sales in January, which include Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo, totaled 204,523 units. The automaker's performance was driven in part by strong sales of two new mid-sized sedans.
Sales of the Ford Fusion fell just one unit shy of 10,000 in January. Also, the Lincoln Zephyr was the top-selling model for the luxury brand during the month with 2,692 units sold.
Land Rover sales increased by one-third, aided by 1,400 units sold of the Range Rover Sport, which was not in showrooms a year ago.
Sales at Ford affiliate Mazda rose 6.5 percent in January.
January was the start of two big initiatives at General Motors -- the launch of redesigned full-sized SUVs and a major repricing move that aims to bring sticker prices closer to transaction prices.