Top 10 Best-Selling Cars: January 2012

After capping 2011 with four decent months, the auto industry hit 2012 running. Analysts expect auto sales to outpace 2011 figures anywhere from 6% to 10%, which could make 2012 the best sales year since 2007.

January enticed consumers with total incentives — including financing offers, automaker and dealer cash, and trade-in bonuses — amounting to 16% off the average car’s MSRP, CNW Marketing Research reports. That beats January 2011, when shoppers saw only 13.5% off the average MSRP.

Shoppers took advantage. January sales jumped 11%, beating Tuesday’s expectations. This marks the best annualized month since 2009, Automotive News reports. Chrysler, Nissan and Hyundai-Kia saw double-digit sales gains, with GM the only top-seven automaker to post a loss.

Pickups were all over the place. Helped by higher incentives versus year-ago levels, sales for the Ram increased 46.8%, making it the strongest January for Chrysler’s popular pickup since 2008. The Ford F-Series improved 7.5%, but Chevrolet can’t wait for the next-generation Silverado to arrive. The outgoing truck, which has been around since late 2006, fell 4.7% versus a strong January 2011.

With higher incentives to start the year, Nissan Altima sales ballooned 35.9% off of a slow January 2011. The Altima would have been January’s top-selling sedan, had the redesigned Toyota Camry not jumped 55.9% a Mitt Romney-size smack-down to keep the title of best-selling sedan, though we doubt the Camry demographic includes guys like Mitt. (For the record, though, Romney’s cars during his ’08 campaign don’t exactly smack of privilege.)

We digress. Small cars are selling well: A lukewarm reception has had little effect on the redesigned Honda Civic, whose sales are up nearly 50%. The Ford Focus and Chevrolet Cruze fell less than 1,700 units off the Top 10, with the Ford up some 60%. Focus ended January just 649 sales short of the Cruze, a car that trounced Focus last year. Ford may close the gap yet, but it comes at a cost. Shoppers in January enjoyed up to $1,000 off the 2012 Focus — a big discount for a redesigned compact — while Chevrolet kept its narrow lead with no cash incentives on the Cruze.

Both are looking up at the Toyota Corolla, which is down 12.6%. Rounding out the list are the redesigned Honda CR-V, the ever-popular Ford Escape and the age-old Chevrolet Impala, a popular alternative to the defunct Ford Crown Victoria for police fleets.

Despite sales falling 6.1%, GM keeps its 2011 crown as America’s best-selling automaker. Ford, Toyota, Chrysler and Honda follow. Hard-charging Hyundai-Kia improved 20.3% in January sales to come within 1,102 cars of Nissan, but the Japanese automaker gained 10.4% to keep sixth place.

Here are January’s 10 best-selling cars.

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