The good times keep rolling for Chrysler.
The Detroit Big 3 member was the first of many automakers set to report January U.S. sales Wednesday, and it came out firing with a 44% surge for the month, building off its bumper year in 2011.
Just a month ago, Chrysler — along with its compatriots General Motors (NYSE:GM) and Ford (NYSE:F) — celebrated strong December and full-year 2011 numbers. Chrysler’s December was 37% better than the prior year, and its annual sales were up about 26% at 1.37 million.
The biggest gains of the month were made in the Chrysler brand itself, with sales of 101,149 up 81% from January 2011, led primarily by the increased popularity of the Chrysler 200 and 300 sedans.
Chrysler has ambitious plans for the future, too. This week, the company is expected to announce the addition of 1,600 jobs at an Illinois plant as part of a larger hiring initiative. CEO Sergio Marchionne — who also heads Fiat (PINK:FIATY), which now owns a 58.5% interest in Chrysler — said the automaker will increase its production to 2.8 million new vehicles in 2014. Marchionne also has previously discussed the possibility of a Chrysler IPO this year.
Chrysler’s report was the first sign validating analysts’ optimistic views for 2012. Many expect a strong year in U.S. sales — after a 10% increase in 2011 — because of the country’s high average vehicle age, currently at 10.8, according to the Associated Press.
— Kyle Woodley, InvestorPlace.com Assistant Editor