SAO PAULO – Brazil exported 44,800 vehicles worth the equivalent of $725 million in January, up 65.9% over prior-year, but down 17.0% from December.

Production of 213,300 vehicles represented a 31.6% increase from like-2009, but was down 3.7% from December, figures from the National Association of Vehicle Manufacturers, Anfavea, show.

January’s best-selling auto maker was Fiat Automoveis SA, with 45,209 deliveries for a 31.5% decline from December. Volkswagen do Brasil Ltda. sold 39,282 vehicles, down 32.2% from prior-month, while General Motors do Brasil Ltda. came in third place, with 44,114 representing a 17.9% fall. Ford Motor Co. do Brasil Ltda. sold 22,498 units, down 22% compared with December.

The drop in sales compared with December is normal, as Brazil’s auto makers traditionally push major promotions at the end of the year to move out vehicle inventory.

Meanwhile, Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd. placed ads in major newspapers in Sao Paulo stating that it outsold the Toyota brand in January.

Hyundai cited data from the Association of Brazilian Vehicle Dealerships (Fenabrave) and called the January result “a step in the direction of leadership.”

Meanwhile, in an effort to increase sales, Toyota dealers are offering Corolla buyers a 2-year hiatus in paying the second half of the vehicle’s purchase price. Buyers, however, are obliged to pay for 24 months of Toyota car insurance at the equivalent of $300 per month.

The Corolla sells for the equivalent of $36,000 in Brazil due partly to high state and federal taxes. A top-of-the-line version retails for about the equivalent of $44,000.