DETROIT - U.S. auto sales are off to a strong start this year, continuing their brisk pace from late 2011.
Chrysler had its best January in four years. Toyota and Honda were back in the game, getting boosts from important new vehicles. Volkswagen, which wants to aggressively expand in the U.S., reported big increases.
The only loser among the major automakers was General Motors Co., whose sales fell 6 percent from a strong January last year.
Sales of cars and trucks rose 11 percent to 913,287 in January, kicking off what is expected to be the strongest year for the industry since the recession. Jesse Toprak, vice president of industry trends for TrueCar.com, said demand is growing as the economy improves.
"For the first time in several years, we are starting the year off with a warm and fuzzy feeling," he said.
January's sales pace was even faster than December's, a relief for the industry after a bumpy 2011. Sales started at a healthy pace but plummeted after the Japanese earthquake in March caused car shortages.