New GM Chevrolet trucks sit on the lot at a General Motors plant
New GM Chevrolet trucks sit on the lot at a General Motors plant - 
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JEREMY HOBSON: Americans flocked back to be to car dealerships last month in a buying mood. According to new industry numbers, sales of new cars and trucks were up 17 percent from last year. Cars are typically the second most expensive thing we buy after houses.

Marketplace's Scott Tong reports now on why we're shelling out for wheels, and not for homes.

SCOTT TONG: Consumer confidence is up, so is access to credit. And analysts are proclaiming the revival of the U.S. auto market. Efficient fuel-sippers like the Chevy Volt get the headlines, but guzzlers feed the bottom line. Light truck sales grew 35 percent in January compared to last year. Good sign, says Hans Griemel at Automotive News.

HANS GRIEMEL: These are the kinds of cars that Americans typically like to buy when they're feeling good about themselves. These are the kind of car they like. It's not necessarily a must-have car, but when they're feeling good about gas prices, when they're feeling good about their pocketbook, then they willing to come out for these trucks.

Trucks that pack high profit-margins. General Motors and Chrysler led the pack, with sales growth over 20 percent. Japanese brands grew more slowly. Griemel says the Big 3 are regaining their mojo by trimming labor costs, cutting unprofitable brands, and buying more parts from low-cost countries. Oh, he says, their cars are getting better, too.

In Washington I'm Scott Tong for Marketplace.

Follow Scott Tong at @tongscott