Cruze sales stay hot during freeze

The Lordstown-built Chevrolet Cruze continues to shatter sales records, reporting its best January ever, despite factors that had experts predicting drops in car sales nationwide.

The 16,828 Cruzes delivered to U.S. buyers in January ranked the vehicle as the GM’s top-selling car in January, and second-best-selling vehicle behind the Silverado pickup truck. Still, Silverado’s sales were down 18 percent from a year ago.

The successful January Cruze sales came as a surprise due to storms and frigid temperatures that were expected to waylay sales, along with the fact that the Lordstown-built car is the oldest Chevy product in GM’s lineup.

The car’s 16 percent sales increase over January 2013 was a stark contrast to sales companywide, triggered largely by last month’s cold, snowy weather in the Northeast and Midwest. Chevrolet reported a drop in U.S. sales totaling 13 percent compared to January 2013. General Motors overall dropped 12 percent.

Likewise, Ford and Toyota, each were down 7 percent, and Volkswagen declined 19 percent from a year ago. However, Chrysler, Nissan and Subaru sales ran counter to the thermometer.

“Historically, January is the industry’s lowest sales month of the year,” GM said in a statement. “Extreme winter weather in the South, Midwest and Northeast this January further depressed GM and industry sales.”

GM officials attributed Cruze’s good month to the company’s attempts to increase its commercial fleet customers, as opposed to rental fleets. The new record beat the previous January sales record of 15,049, set in 2012.

Ford also blamed the weather for its sales decline. Sales of the Ford Focus small car plunged 26 percent from last January, while sales of the F-Series pickup were flat. Ford’s Lincoln luxury brand was the bright spot, with a 43 percent increase.

Toyota’s results were impacted by weather and a safety issue. Last Thursday, Toyota told North American dealers to stop selling six popular models with heated seats because the fabric doesn’t comply with U.S. safety codes and could catch fire. The order affected 36,000 cars, trucks and minivans, about 13 percent of the inventory at U.S. dealers. The order covered certain Camry, Avalon, Sienna and Tacoma models with heated seats from the 2013 and 2014 model years, as well as some Corollas and Tundras from 2014. No fires or injuries have been reported.

Chrysler’s U.S. sales advanced 8 percent, with the Detroit automaker notching its best January in six years. Sales were led by the Chrysler 200 midsize car and the Ram pickup, with gains of more than 20 percent each. Jeep brand sales rose 38 percent.

Nissan rose nearly 12 percent, and Subaru saw a 19 percent increase.

GM is predicting industry-wide annual sales this year of 16 million to 16.5 million, which would be the industry’s second best year since 2007, when 16.2 million vehicles were sold in the United States. Last year, Americans took delivery on 15.6 million new cars industrywide.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.