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U.S. January auto sales seen rising 1 pct -JD Power-LMC

DETROIT, Jan 24 (Reuters) - U.S. auto sales will rise 1 percent in January from a year ago, industry consultant and research firms J.D. Power and LMC Automotive said Friday, which equates to a seasonally adjusted annualized 15.9 million vehicles, from 15.2 million in January 2013.

January U.S. fleet sales, which are made to businesses, rental agencies and government, will be less than 20 percent of total sales, down from a year ago. That's why retail sales, those to individual consumers, will rise at a higher 3 percent rate than overall sales, LMC and J.D. Power said.

"All systems are a go for a strong and stable U.S. auto market in 2014, with risk of not achieving modest growth diminished," said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive. "We look for economic growth, a robust level of lease maturities, 70 percent more new model launches and an increase in consumers' willingness to spend to be the major drivers of growth in 2014."

In 2014, JD Power and LMC see total light vehicle sales up 600,000, or 4 percent, to 16.2 million vehicles. Light vehicles do not include medium and heavy trucks.

Inventory levels for the U.S. market retreated to 63 days of supply in early January from 77 days at the start of December, J.D. Power and LMC said.

The Detroit automakers, General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler Group LLC, are running inventory at 77 days of supply. LMC and JD Power were not alarmed by this, saying it was consistent with the need to have more days of supply for pickup trucks.

North American vehicle production rose 5 percent in 2013 to 16.1 million vehicles, a pace that was maintained in December, JD Power and LMC said.