The auto industry continues to show strong sales figures, suggesting the previously troubled industry is making a full recovery from the recession. According to a report released Friday by BMO Financial Group, January vehicle sales climbed in both the U.S. and Canada - 11 percent and 15 percent, respectively. The report, which includes both new and used purchases, may also suggest consumers are finding it easier to take on debt. However, this points underscores the need for auto lenders to invest in background checks and credit reports
. "We look for sales to total about 14.3 million units in the U.S. and 1.6 million in Canada," said Kenrick Jordan, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets. "This compares with 12.8 million and 1.59 million, respectively, in 2011. But there is the potential for a surprise on the upside." Specifically, Jordan expects regained competition from Japanese automakers, as that country continues its recovery from a production shortfalls following the earthquake and tsunami disaster. "This should make for attractive pricing," Jordan says, meaning North American producers - despite their recent successes, will need to work hard to remain competitive.