DETROIT -- Frigid temperatures and snowy weather generally kept buyers away from auto showrooms last month, with Ford, General Motors, Toyota and Volkswagen all reporting declines from a year ago.
But Chrysler, Nissan and Subaru dealers were smiling. Sales ran counter to the thermometer and were up for all three brands.
January is usually a snow month for auto sales, but the polar vortex most likely slowed things even more. Industry analysts predicted little or no sales gains in January compared with a year ago. Ford said the industry saw double-digit sales gains in the West, where the weather was good, but big declines in other regions.
Dealers saw the impact firsthand.
"When you go three days when no one comes on the lot, it's a little tough to be up to average," said Timothy Detweiler, dealer principal of a Buick-GMC dealer in Masontown, Pa., Temperatures there were near or below zero for several straight days.
GM said its sales dropped 12 percent compared with the same month a year earlier, while Ford and Toyota each were down 7 percent. Volkswagen slumped 19 percent.
But Chrysler's U.S. sales advanced 8 percent, while Nissan's rose nearly 12 percent. Subaru saw a 19 percent increase.
All three automakers were boosted by new vehicles. Chrysler notched its best January in six years, with Jeep brand sales up 38 percent on the strength of the new Cherokee small SUVs. Nissan sales gained 11.8 percent, led by the redesigned Rogue small crossover SUV with sales up 55 percent. And sales of Subaru's redesigned Forester SUV jumped 64 percent over last January.
GM predicted an industrywide annual selling rate of 15.3 million for the month, just a touch above the 15.2 million rate in January 2013. Sales of most of its high-volume models were down. The Chevy Silverado pickup, GM's top-selling vehicle, saw sales shrink by more than 18 percent.
But like many analysts, GM remained optimistic for the year, predicting total U.S. sales in a range from 16 million to 16.5 million. That's back to pre-recession levels.