The number of new cars and trucks titled in Hamilton County in January was 1,032, up 11.5 percent from a year ago, according to the Clerk's Office.
Volkswagen's Chattanooga-made Passat helped fuel a big gain in U.S. January sales for the German automaker as overall industry numbers for the month were better than analysts expected.
"I don't see a lot of downside risk for the industry," said Jesse Toprak, TrueCar.com's vice president of industry trends, about the rest of 2012.
Volkswagen of America on Tuesday posted a 47.9 percent hike in sales last month over a year ago, its best January since 1974. VW sold 27,209 vehicles in January, the company said in a news release.
Jonathan Browning, chief executive of Volkswagen Group of America, said in a statement that the automaker is off to a strong start.
"We ended 2011 strong and are seeing the momentum continue into 2012," he said.
The Passat had sales of 6,318 units for the month, and the demand has created a need for more hiring at the Chattanooga plant. VW said Tuesday it would hire 200 additional employees, bringing the total to 2,700 at the factory.
Toprak said the all-new Passat is off to "a decent performance" in terms of sales.
But he added that when it comes to a redesign, the true test will be several months after the car's introduction.
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VW's Jetta sedan sales totaled 9,564 last month, its third best January ever, according to the carmaker. Sales for VW's Tiguan, its small sport utility vehicle, were up 50 percent in the month over 2011, the company reported.
Industrywide, Chrysler had its best January in four years while Toyota got a boost from its new Camry, according to the Associated Press. General Motors, however, saw sales fall compared to a strong January a year earlier.
Toprak said total vehicle sales for the month puts the projected yearly figure at close to 14 million nationally.
"It was better than most of us anticipated," he said.
Chrysler's January sales jumped 44 percent. Buyers flocked to the revamped 200 and 300 sedans. Chrysler reported January sales on the same day it announced its first full-year net income since 1997.
Nissan Motor Co.'s sales were up 10 percent with big jumps for the new Quest minivan and the Altima sedan. Nissan sold 676 Leaf electric cars, besting its archrival, the Chevrolet Volt.
General Motors Co.'s sales fell 6 percent as demand for its trucks and crossovers dropped.
Sales at Toyota Motor Corp. rose 7.5 percent. Camry sales climbed 56 percent in January and the sedan remained America's best-selling car.
Ford Motor Co.'s sales rose 7 percent. Demand for the Ford Focus compact car was up 60 percent, while sales of the Escape small SUV increased 24 percent.
Hyundai Motor Co. continued its string of sales increases, setting a company record for a January. The Korean automaker's sales rose nearly 15 percent. The Sonata midsize car led the way with sales up 9 percent.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.