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Detroit, Toyota gain U.S. sales

Feb. 02, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

DETROIT -- American consumers ignored tax increases and trudged through winter weather to buy new cars and trucks at an unusually strong pace last month. It was the auto industry's best January since 2008.

"It was like a sprinter out of the starting blocks," said Mike Jackson, CEO of AutoNation Inc., the country's largest auto dealership chain.

U.S. auto sales rose 14 percent to more than 1 million. Toyota's 27 percent gain was the biggest among the major car companies. Ford's sales jumped 22 percent, while GM and Chrysler each reported 16 percent gains compared with a year earlier.

The results left the industry optimistic about the new year. Businesses bought more trucks. Consumers are ready to buy -- their cars have reached a record average of 11.3 years old -- and banks are making it easier with low interest rates and looser credit terms.

Sales ran at an annual pace of 15.3 million in January. If that holds for the rest of the year, automakers will sell nearly 1 million more vehicles than in 2012, when sales rose 13 percent.

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