Despite a massive snowstorm that blanketed the East Coast, US auto sales looked set to keep up the momentum from a strong 2015, results showed Tuesday.
The sector kicked off the year with about 1.15 million vehicles delivered in January, down 0.3 percent from a year ago, according to researcher Autodata.
Total adjusted sales were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 17.68 million vehicles, Autodata said. That tops the 17.47 million sales in 2015, the auto industry's strongest performance since 2000.
"Many brands had their best January sales ever, suggesting the new-car party will continue into the new year," said Karl Brauer, an analyst for Kelley Blue Book.
"With transaction prices still rising, incentive levels holding steady, and minimal auto loan defaults, the health of the market remains high while demand for new cars shows no sign of slowing."
General Motors, the largest US automaker, delivered 203,745 cars and trucks in the month, up a bare 0.5 percent from a year ago, while Ford sales fell 2.6 percent to 173,723 units.
FCA US, the US arm of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, turned in a better month, with an overall gain of 6.9 percent to 155,037 units.
Toyota sales fell 4.7 percent to 161,283 vehicles, but the Japanese automaker noted that in addition to the massive winter storm which shuttered dealerships along the East Coast there were also two fewer selling days compared with January 2015.
"The industry is off to a healthy start in 2016," said Bill Fay, general manager for the Toyota division.
Volkswagen, which has been struggling to rebuild consumer trust in the wake of an emissions-cheating scandal which has also forced it to suspend sales of diesel models, saw sales fall 14.6 percent to 20,079 vehicles in January.
"January sales numbers were down due to the seasonal nature of the fleet business," Mark McNabb, chief operating officer for Volkswagen of America, said in a statement.
"Despite that and the weather conditions in the Northeast portion of the country, Volkswagen dealers improved in terms of retail business."
Honda reported sales fell 1.7 percent to 100,497 vehicles, while Nissan said it sold 105,734 vehicles, a gain of 1.6 percent.
In the "green car" sector, electric-car maker Tesla saw sales jump 120 percent to 2,200 vehicles.
US auto sales touched a new high in 2015 as a surge in job growth boosted household incomes, cheap credit encouraged buying and low gasoline prices boosted demand for fuel-guzzling sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks.
"We believe industry fundamentals such as the age of the vehicle fleet, well-managed inventory levels, firm used-car pricing, good credit availability and low fuel prices will support higher industry sales in 2016," Mustafa Mohatarem, GM's chief economist, said in a statement.
"In addition, household balance sheets are strong and the labor market continues to improve."