6 Hot Cars in January, Starting with Ford Fusion

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In October, Fusion sales fell 30% to 12,690. In November, sales fell 24% to 15,125. In December, sales fell 4.5% to 21,622.

"I've been talking about us getting the appropriate (Fusion) inventories for the last few months," Czubay said during on the company's sales call. Asked if sales were simply catching up with unmet demand, he said, "It's hard to say if it was catch-up. We anticipate it will continue at this pace."

Cadillac ATS

Cadillac ATS sales totaled 2,781 in January, a month when ATS was named car of the year at the Detroit Auto Show.

On the GM(GM) sales call, sales chief Kurt McNeil declared, "We haven't seen a January this strong since 2008 ... the tempo of sales was strong from start to finish during the month (and) we achieved it with lower incentive spending." He said GM benefited from three factors: pent-up demand, "great products in key segments," and "the buzz at the auto show."

"The Detroit show was truly magical for GM," McNeil said. The unveiling of the Corvette Stingray and the Cadillac ELR drew a lot of attention. But, he said, "Cadillac ATS winning North American car of the year was an even bigger deal for us, given our global aspirations for the brand."

ATS is now the third best-selling car in the luxury compact segment (after BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C-Class) and helped Cadillac to deliver its best January retail sales in 23 years, McNeil said.

Buick Verano

It isn't just the ATS that has GM excited. Executives also touted the Buick Verano compact luxury sedan.

Verano January sales totaled 3,660, making it the second best-selling Buick model after Enclave. Brand January sales rose 32% to 13,463, while January retail sales were the highest in nine years and were up 30% from a year earlier.

U.S sales of the Verano began in November 2011. The car is sold in China as the Buick Excelle GT.

On the call, Bryan Sweeney, vice president of Buick, declared: "We think all three Buick sedans are working together. Look at what Verano did. It has good momentum and 'conquest' is over 51%," meaning that more than half of buyers previously owned other brands.

Honda Accord

The new Fusion may have drawn more attention in Detroit, given its more dramatic restyling, but January sales of the new 2013 Honda Accord, the second best-selling car and the fourth best-selling vehicle, gained 75% to 23,924 units.

Accord sales gained more than 10,000 units from the same month a year earlier and led Honda to a 12.8% sales January. Honda introduced its new Accord in September.

"The all-new Accord has the Honda brand right where we left off in 2012 - powering significant sales gains in the new year," said John Mendel, American Honda executive vice president of sales, in a prepared statement.