US auto sales for the Big Three American automakers were mixed in January as General Motors (GM) sales dropped 6 percent since January last year while Chrysler posted a strong gain of 44 percent over the same period and Ford increased 7 percent.
Chrysler's year-over-year increase of 44 percent marked its best January in four years, and its eighth-consecutive month of sales gains of at least 20 percent, reported Xinhua.
Chrysler's improvement since last January was also accompanied by the news that the automaker had achieved its first full-year profit since 1997, recording a 2011 net-income of $183 million.
It was a stark contrast to Chrysler's 2010 net loss of $652 million, and the automaker was pleased with the results that also included a 2011 second quarter payment extinguishing $551 million of debt.
"The house is in good order. We are proud of the work we've done," said Sergio Marchionne, chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Chrysler Group LLC. "Now we greet a new year of high expectations with our heads down, forging ahead and focused on executing the goals we've set for ourselves as a company."
Ford also saw an improvement in January sales since last year, rising 7 percent.
The automaker also noted that the Ford brand totalled 131,589 vehicles in January, making it the best January sales month for the Ford brand since 2008.
The news was less positive at GM, which saw US vehicle sales fall 6 percent compared to last January.
GM brands Cadillac and Buick saw the largest decreases, with 29.1 percent and 23.1 percent declines since January 2011, respectively. Chevrolet, GM's largest brand, fared better with only a slight decrease of 1.2 percent in US auto sales.
GM also posted a 30-percent sales increase for fuel-efficient small and compact cars, something which the automaker tried to seize upon as it assessed the January sales numbers.
"Chevrolet drove our performance once again and sales of our fuel-efficient new cars were especially good," and Don Johnson, vice president, US sales operations. "The strength that the economy and the auto industry showed in the fourth quarter carried into January, so we believe the year is off to a good start."
The first American auto sales figures for the 2012 year come after a generally positive performance in 2011. Total US auto sales reached almost 13 million vehicles in 2011, a strong gain after suffering significant economic difficulties following the 2008 financial crisis.