New car sales in January continued to rise at a steady pace, according to, continuing the auto industry's slow but stable recovery.

I know this doesn't make headlines, said Jesse Toprak,'s vice president of industry trends and insights. But it's good news, because we don't have any wild fluctuations.

The last few months, including January, have been very stable and have had a somewhat predictable pace of sales.

Overall, new sales of light vehicles in the U.S. jumped 6.7 percent from January 2011. It's a pace that should keep the auto industry on the road to expected sales of nearly 14 million this year. Retail sales also grew 7.3 percent compared to January 2011. January is traditionally one of the slower months for new car sales.

Among the major movers was Chrysler Group LLC, which saw a 33.8 percent jump in new car sales from last January. The reason for that is twofold: Chrysler's retail sales are up and, by contrast, its sales in January 2011 were sharply lower.

U.S. competitor Ford Motor Co. saw sales rise 8 percent.

On the other side, though, General Motors Corp. sales this month fell 9.4 percent from sales in January 2011. Toprak said this amounted to a reversal of Chrysler's situation, when GM had an unusually good sales month last January from bolstered incentive spending that lured consumers, employees and suppliers. GM recently became once again the world's top automaker in terms of sales, selling 9.03 million vehicles in 2011 to best Volkswagen and Toyota.

It makes their number now appear worse, Toprak said in a phone interview Wednesday. Otherwise, GM's performance in terms of sales and trending in the last few months has been positive.  

Honda's decline continued, however. The automaker's sales fell 7.4 percent from the same month last year. Honda has struggled to rebound in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which forced cuts in production at some Japanese plants. Toyota, Hyundai and Nissan, however, were all up.

More good news: Incentive spending is flat from the same period a year ago, another sign, Toprak said, that consumers are ready to take on purchases of new cars. He called January a warm and fuzzy feeling month that allows the industry to focus on the excitement of the new cars -- and not which car company is going to survive.

It's a solid beginning, Toprak said. It's not a blockbuster month. The recovery continues, albeit at a slow pace.