Analysis

Asia accounted for 49.1% of January’s 6.2 million new-vehicle sales worldwide, the region’s highest share of global sales to date.

The continent established the new record even as growth there continues to cool off, especially measured against year-ago when China’s 2010 sales exploded.

Asia’s 10.9% sales increase over year-ago was the region’s lowest jump in more than two years. China and India, its largest and third-largest markets, respectively, achieved relatively modest gains for the month of 13.8% and 22.2%, while second-place Japan saw sales plummet 16.7%.

Related document: World Vehicle Sales Summary

North America showed the largest growth in January, with sales of 992,000 new vehicles, a 15.2% increase over year-ago. The region was boosted by better-than-expected U.S. sales, which soared 17.9% on 834,799 deliveries.

However, the region continues to pace itself against an extremely weak year-ago, as the market slowly works toward recovery.

North America accounted for 16% of world sales, up from year-ago’s 15.4%, which also reflects seasonal differences between markets. The region claimed 20.8% of sales in December.

In Europe, auto makers sold roughly 1.4 million vehicles, 12.7% less than December’s total, but still good for a 4.1% increase over year-ago.

The region’s two largest markets, Germany (up 13.2%) and France (up 8.8%), finished in a virtual dead-heat, followed by Italy, which took the No.3 spot despite seeing sales dive 25.4% vs. January 2010.

Europe earned a 23.2% share of world sales, compared with 24.6% a year ago.

Like China, South America’s biggest market, Brazil, is competing with year-ago data that reflects enormous sales growth. The country finished up just 2% over like-2010, but large growth in some of the region’s smaller markets, including Chile (up 49.9%) and Argentina (up 15.8%) lifted South America to a 7.2% increase in deliveries and a 6% share of world sales.

The rest of the world accounted for an estimated 5.7% of vehicle sales.

The global sales growth rate dipped slightly to 10.3% from December’s 12.3%, marking the second consecutive month of decline.

January’s growth was slightly less than the fourth-quarter average of 11.5% and well below full-year 2010’s growth rate of 14.6%.

jsousanis@wardsauto.com