CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- 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,'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.

Read more on the story from our news partners at the Chattanooga Times Free Press.