DETROIT – U.S. auto sales jumped by about 18 percent in January, led by gains for General Motors and Chrysler as the two Detroit automakers restructured by the U.S. government took share from rivals.

The stronger U.S. auto sales results pointed to a recovery in American consumer demand and a return of easier lending terms by banks, auto executives and analysts said, despite the threat of higher oil prices ahead.

“If oil prices don’t trip us up, Detroit should have a pretty good year,” said Paul Ballew, Nationwide chief economist.