Channel NewsAsia

Winter takes a bite out of US auto sales

Massive snowstorms and bitter cold took a bite out of US auto sales in January, but Chrysler said on Monday it extended a winning streak even as its rivals posted significant losses.

CHICAGO: Massive snowstorms and bitter cold took a bite out of US auto sales in January, but Chrysler said on Monday it extended a winning streak even as its rivals posted significant losses.

January is typically the weakest sales month of the year as showrooms empty out following big year-end sales in December.

But the unusually brutal winter weather - which buried huge swaths of the country in snow, ice and frigid temperatures - kept people at home and even delayed delivery of sales to government and corporate fleets.

Total sales fell 3.1 percent compared with January 2013 while the seasonally-adjusted sales pace fell to 15.2 million from 15.4 million in December, according to Autodata.

Those losses are expected to help boost sales in February - so long as the awful weather clears out.

General Motors forecast that the industry as a whole will post its best results since 2007 this year with sales expected to climb to between 16 and 16.5 million vehicles from 15.6 million in 2013.

GM's sales dropped 12 percent to 171,486 vehicles in January, weakened in part by planned reductions in low-margin sales to rental car companies.

Better results were ahead, the largest US automaker insisted.

"We have major launches underway and we are going to accelerate brand-building and other growth initiatives, which include executing our winning strategy to sell more pickup trucks with larger cabs, more features and advanced technology," GM sales chief Kurt McNeil said in a statement.

Ford's sales fell seven percent in January to 154,644 vehicles.

"Given the difficult weather in our largest sales regions, we are fortunate to have held in at retail as well as we did," said Ford sales chief John Felice.

Toyota's sales fell seven percent from a year earlier to 146,365 vehicles.

"January was off to a solid start, but the weather condition slowed industry sales in key markets late in the month," said Bill Fay, general manager of the Japanese automaker's Toyota division.

"For Toyota, we're pleased with our retail sales, strong truck results and expect to see growth back in February."

Chrysler bucked the trend with sales up eight percent to 127,183 vehicles in its best January performance since 2008.

The third largest US automaker has now posted 46 consecutive months of year-over-year sales gains.

"The bad weather only seemed to affect our competitors' stores as we had a great January,? Chrysler sales chief Reid Bigland said.

Nissan also managed to plough through the wintery mess, with January sales rising 12 percent to 90,470 vehicles.

That brought the Japanese automaker within spitting distance of overtaking rival Honda for 5th place in the highly competitive US market.

Honda sales fell two percent to 91,631, but its luxury Acura division saw sales jump 14 percent to a January record of 10,823 thanks to its all-weather sport utility vehicles.

"January's foul weather cooled things a bit," Honda sales chief John Mendel said.

"We look forward to a warming trend, especially as new products like the updated 2014 Civic Si and the all-new 2015 Fit join the line-up this year."

Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia managed to post modest gains despite the bad weather, with Hyundai up one percent at 44,005 and Kia up two percent at 37,011.

Tweet Photos, Videos and Update on this Story to  #cna