A 26.8% increase in Asia-Pacific vehicle sales helped lift January global vehicle demand 14.4% over year-ago, the biggest same-month gain since April 2010.

The extraordinary rise in the Asia-Pacific region largely was due to the timing of the Chinese Lunar New Year festival and other seasonal holidays that were celebrated last January but fell in February this year. That created a nearly 2-week differential in work days between January and like-2012.

As a result, sales in China, the world’s largest market, jumped 46.4% over year-ago, while surpassing 2 million deliveries for the first time.

Results throughout the rest of the Asia-Pacific region were mixed, with deliveries in both Japan and India, the region’s second- and third-largest markets after China, dropping 7.8%, and 4.7%, respectively.

Indonesia (up 26.5%) and Thailand (up 65%) remained among the fastest-growing markets in the world.

The China sales anomaly helped push the Asia-Pacific region’s share of global sales to a record 49.4% on 3.35 million units.

In North America, volume grew 12.2%, to 1.25 million units, under more normal circumstances. U.S. deliveries rose 13.9%, on strong fleet and retail sales totaling 1.06 million units. Mexico sales were up 11.7%, but deliveries lagged 2.5% in Canada compared with a strong year-ago result.

North America accounted for 18.4% of the global vehicle market in January.

Europe was the only region to post a decline, with deliveries falling 5.9%, to 1.3 million vehicles.

Sales in two of the region’s top five markets were up, with the U.K. rising 10.6% and Russia gaining 5.2%. But those increases were more than offset by dips in Germany (9.3%), France (14.1%) and Italy (15.4%), along with largely negative results in smaller markets across the region.

Europe’s share of worldwide sales fell to a 6-month low 19.4%.

South America auto sales climbed 12.4% over year-ago, a 3-month high. Volume in Brazil rose 16.2% to more than 311,000 units, making the country the fourth-largest vehicle market for the month. Collectively, South America accounted for 7% of world sales in January.

jsousanis@wardsauto.com