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SANTA MONICA, Calif. — While the expected year-over-year upswing in January's new-vehicle sales is a good sign for the industry, what TrueCar found more encouraging is the projected upswing in luxury sales, as these often reflect the state of consumer confidence.

Specifically, the company anticipates that there will 728,019 new vehicles (including fleet) sold in the U.S. by the end of January, which would be a 29-percent decline from December, but an 11-percent gain (unadjusted) compared to January 2008.

The projected seasonally adjusted annualized rate for the month is 11.3 million units.

"The improvements that we have seen in the industry in the last several months have been encouraging," explained Jesse Toprak, vice president of trends and insights for TrueCar.com. "But we have to remember that this time last year we were just heading into the downward spiral from which the automotive industry is — just now — starting to emerge.

"What we are seeing that really sparks optimism in this recovery is a jump in the new-car sales of luxury vehicles from last year. This is significant because luxury vehicle sales are a leading indicator of consumer confidence in the marketplace," he continued. "Almost across the board we have seen sales growth in brands like BMW (13 percent), Mercedes Benz (32 percent), Lexus (30 percent) and Audi (20 percent)."

Looking at the remainder of the year, TrueCar.com now projects full-year 2010 new-vehicle sales to be 12 million units, compared with 10.4 million for 2009.

Breaking down some of the January projections for the top six automakers, Ford is expected to show the largest year-over-year gain (up 33 percent) with anticipated sales of 120,854 vehicles.

Chrysler's January sales are expected to be relatively static from a year ago at 65,352 units sold. General Motors is expected to sell 142,362 units in January, an 11-percent improvement from last year.

Honda, with expected sales of 75,612, is likely to show a 6-percent year-over-year improvement, while Toyota's projected January new sales are 133,490 units, a 14-percent gain.

Nissan is the only OEM of the Big Six expected to show a slight drop with 52,892 new cars sold (down 2 percent).

With regard to market share, the Big 3 will likely command 44.7 percent, down from 45.8 percent in December but up from 42.7 percent a year ago.

Market share for European automakers is forecasted at 8.1 percent, versus 8.5 percent in December and 7.9 percent in January 2009.

Japanese brands are projected to command 40.8 percent of the market, up from 40.4 percent last month but down from 42.2 percent last year.

Korean brands' market share is likely to be 6.4 percent, a decrease from 5.3 percent in December and 7.1 percent in January 2009.