Toyota and Ford lead carmakers beating January U.S. sales estimates

Southfield, Mich. - Toyota and Ford led the four largest automakers by U.S. sales in reporting January gains that topped estimates, as buyers return to showrooms to begin a fourth consecutive year of growth.

Toyota's deliveries of cars and light-trucks surged 27 percent and Ford's climbed 22 percent, while General Motors and Chrysler sales each rose 16 percent, according to company statements. Honda fell short of estimates.

Consumers are replacing cars and trucks that have aged to about 11 years on average after deferring purchases of new autos during the nation's slow recovery from the recession that ended in 2009. The demand is spurring carmakers to increase hiring and domestic production, contributing an outsized boost to U.S. economic growth.

"When you have pent-up demand from all the old vehicles on the road, available credit and compelling new products, that's a winning combination," Michelle Krebs, an analyst for market researcher Edmunds.com.

Ford's subcompact, compact and midsize cars all increased sales in the same month for the first time since June 2011. The company's deliveries of F-Series pickups surged 22 percent to 46,841.

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