Domestic automakers aren't calling it a recovery. But they say the latest 10-day sales report, showing the ninth consecutive gain over comparable periods the year before, gives them something to smile about.

U.S. automakers sold 144,478 new cars in mid-January, an 11 1/2 percent increase over 129,531 sold last year. The latest figures yield a seasonally adjusted annual selling rate of 6.5 million cars, down a bit from the 6.8 million adjusted selling rate in the first 10 days of this month.

But the mid-January performance brings gains for the ninth time since late October 1982.

Analysts, however, remained cautious because sales incentive programs are still in effect.

Of the Big Three, General Motors Corp. sales were up the most, by 14.2 percent, at 88,222 cars compared with 77,247 in the year-ago period. Ford Motor Co. sales rose 1 percent, from 33,397 to 33,738. Chrysler Corp. sales improved 12.1 percent, from 14,846 to 16,650.

American Motors Corp. sales were estimated to be up 77.8 percent at 3,800 compared with 2,137 last year. AMC's newest car, the Alliance, continued to be the largest seller in the company's lineup.

Volkswagen of America Inc. said it sold 2,068 cars in mid-January, up 8.6 percent from sales in the year-ago period.