American consumers ignored tax increases and tromped through the winter chill to buy new cars and trucks at an unusually strong pace last month.
Analysts said it will likely be the best January in five years once all automakers report. Sales at Toyota rose 27 percent, and they were up 22 percent at Ford. GM and Chrysler each reported 16 percent gains compared with a year earlier.
The figures so far show that the auto industry remains a bright spot in a tepid U.S. economic recovery.
The results left the industry optimistic about the new year. Businesses bought more trucks. Consumers — whose cars have reached a record average of 11.3 years old — are ready to buy, and banks are making it easier with low interest rates and looser credit terms.