Chevy Volt Reuters
Chevy Volt. Reuters

Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F), General Motors (NYSE:GM) and Chrysler LLC, a subsidiary of Italian company Fiat S.p.A. (Milan: F), all reported on Friday double-digit increases in U.S. auto sales for the first month of 2013, the first indication from Detroit that the industry’s post-crisis rebound will continue this year.

Automakers' U.S. sales reports are the earliest indication of consumer sentiment for each month. Other major car companies report their sales throughout the day.

General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM), North America’s largest automaker, reported a 16 percent rise in total sales in the first month of 2013, or 194,699 units. The company estimates that January's seasonally adjusted annualized rate will be 15.3 million vehicles.

Retail sales of Chevrolet vehicles, the largest group, rose 11 percent from last year led by robust demand for its mini, small and compact cars. Sales of GMC vehicles were up 23 percent. Pickup truck sales were up 50,230, or 32 percent.

“The year is off to a very good start,” said Kurt McNeil, head of U.S. sales for the Detroit-based auto giant.

GM's stock price gained 36 cents to $28.45 in New York on Friday.

Chrysler, maker of the Dodge, Ram and Jeep brands, sold 117,731 units in January, a 16 percent increase from last year, led by a 37 percent hike in Dodge brand sales. Overall the company had the best unit sales for the month since before the 2008-09 economic crisis tanked car sales across the spectrum.

“It’s been a good week for the Chrysler Group,” said Reid Bigland, the company’s head of U.S. sales. On Wednesday Chrysler reports $1.7 billion in profits for 2012, up from $188 million the year before.

Top-selling Chrysler models in January included the Dodge Avenger mid-sized sedan that saw sales jump 69 percent from last year and the Ram pickup truck that saw a 14 percent increase. The Ram is the group’s best seller, representing 17 percent of all Chrysler vehicles sold last month. The 2013 Ram 1500 pickup was named MotorTrend’s Truck of the Year.

The Jeep brand saw sales decline 4 percent largely due to a steep drop in the sales of the Liberty SUV. The Grand Cherokee continued to be that segment’s best seller for the Auburn Hills, Mich.-based automaker, the smallest of the Big Three.

Chrysler estimates that January's seasonally adjusted annualized rate will be 15.5 million vehicles.

Fiat’s share price rose 4 cents to $6.15 in trading in New York on Friday.

Ford saw total unit sales of 166,501, a 22 percent increase from last year. Car sales grew 34 percent, led by a nearly 65 percent increase in the company’s best-selling Fusion sedan. The popular F-series pickup truck—the company’s overall best-selling model—saw sales rise nearly 22 percent. The Luxury Lincoln brand, which the company is trying to push as its answer to German and Japanese high-end driving machines, saw group sales fall 18 percent.

Ford SUV sales rose 24 percent, led by the Escape and Explorer brands.

The company’s head of U.S. sales, Ken Czubay, said investment in the company’s EcoBoost engines and hybrids “continues to pay off.”

Ford’s share price rose 3 cents to $12.98 in New York on Friday., an auto analyst research firm, predicts total U.S. retail car sales for January will reach 877,533, while J.D. Power & Associates expects them to come in at 812,600 vehicles, representing a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 12.9 million units. That would compare to last January's 10.9 million vehicles. Retail sales exclude fleet vehicles, such as cars bought by rental companies, and is a more accurate reflection of U.S. consumer sentiment.

Total annual sales are expected to come in at between 15 and 15.5 million units, up from 14.4 million last year. Annual car sales plummeted below 11 million in 2009, during the peak of the economic crisis kicked off by the banking system through the subprime mortgage lending debacle.