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SYDNEY, Feb 5 AAP

February 05 2013, 1:28PM

New vehicle sales made a strong start in 2013, despite a sharp drop in purchases by state and federal governments.

Sales of new vehicles were up 11.3 per cent in January compared to the same time in 2012, figures released by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) show.

The FCAI said 85,430 passenger cars, SUVs and commercial vehicles were sold in January, up by more than 8,000 compared to the same month a year ago.

That was despite a 30.1 per cent drop in government purchases of vehicles compared to a year ago.

The biggest increase occurred in sales of SUVs, which were up 20.1 per cent compared to January 2012.

However, sales of locally manufactured vehicles dropped 28.4 per cent.

The Mazda3 was the most popular vehicle, with 3,345 units sold, followed by the Toyota Corolla (2,960 units) and the Toyota Hilux (2,747 units).