General Motors’ January sales reached their highest total since 2008, driven largely by pickup-trucks and a marked increase by the Cadillac brand.

GM’s daily sales rate climbed 11.3% from like-2012, as the auto maker delivered 194,699 vehicles, WardsAuto data shows. Cadillac saw its best January in 23 years, fueled by the introduction of the ATS and XTS sedans.

GM sales chief Kurt McNeil says a new CTS sedan is in the pipeline to keep the momentum going. Total new-car sales across all GM brands rose 7.2% on a daily basis from year-ago.

“The Detroit (auto) show (last month) was truly magical for General Motors,” McNeil says, pointing to the unveiling of the seventh-generation Chevrolet Corvette Stingray. Buzz generated from the auto show, along with pent-up demand and new models in key segments, drove customers to showrooms.

The ATS was the best-selling Cadillac in January with 2,781 units, followed closely by the CTS with 2,505. But while ATS sales have been climbing, CTS results plummeted 20.3% from like-2012. In total, Cadillac delivered 11,569 vehicles, including 4,380 SRX cross/utility vehicles.

Buick’s CUVs will be ones to watch in coming months as well, says Brian Sweeney, vice president-Buick-GMC sales and service. Sales of the fullsize Enclave hit 4,895 units in January. The compact Encore – in its first full sales month – delivered 353 units, a number sure to grow, he says.

“We’re turning extremely fast on Encore,” Sweeney says of demand for the small CUV. “We’re approaching a new size and segment. We’re seeing some great demographics. That bodes well for what Buick’s trying to do in expanding its crossover lineup.”

Sweeney declines to comment on whether Buick plans to add another CUV to slot between the Enclave and Encore, but he does say the Encore being cross-shoped by owners of Honda and other import brands.

In contrast, sales of Buick’s Regal sedan plummeted 47.9% last month from year-ago to 1,005 units, compared with the smaller Verano’s 3,660 and fullsize LaCrosse’s 3,548. But Sweeney says the marque continues to attract younger buyers, particularly the Regal GS and Turbo.

“We think all three Buick sedans are working together and delivering what the customer is looking for in the showroom,” he says.

Chevrolet delivered 61,295 cars in January, led by the Malibu (15,823), Cruze (14,524) and Impala (14,153). But the much-watched Volt extended-range electric vehicle sold just 1,140 units, down from 1,519 in November and 2,633 in December.

McNeil says GM incentives were down from prior-month but up year-on-year and will be “competitive with the set” going forward.

“We see the upside coming from the marketplace and housing, small businesses and et cetera,” he says. “There’s opportunity there, and we’re certainly going to take advantage of that. (But) we want to be known for great products, not great incentives.”

The Chevrolet Sonic subcompact, which sold 7,177 units last month, passed the 100,000-unit mark since its introduction in August 2011. Combined with the Spark, which sold 2,408, and the Cruze, McNeil says Chevrolet’s small cars are key to future sales.

A forthcoming electrified Spark will help “establish Chevrolet as a technology leader,” says Don Johnson, vice president-Chevrolet sales and service.

GMC and Chevrolet trucks, combined, sold 106,825 units in January. The fullsize Chevy Silverado pickup led the charge with 35,445, while the GMC Sierra delivered 12,846.

With the pending launch of the revamped large pickups, McNeil announces a new “ProGrade Protection” plan for the Sierra that features an upgraded powertrain warranty, bumper-to-bumper coverage of defects and free scheduled maintenance for the truck’s first two years or 24,000 miles (38,623 km).

Sales of the smaller GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado tumbled 72.6% and 72.5%, respectively, from year-ago, to a combined 1,124 units. McNeil says low inventory levels were the culprit.

GM continues to forecast total industry sales of between 15.0 million and 15.5 million units for 2013.

afoley@wardsauto.com