Big automakers’ sales thaw; GM tally delayed – USA TODAY

Posted: Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Chrysler, Ford, Toyota and General Motors reported March sales increases of 13%, 3%, 5% and 4.1%, respectively, as a bitterly cold winter in much of the country began to thaw.

Nissan said its sales increased 8.3% in March while Volkswagen’s sales fell 3%, Honda’s sales fell 2.0% and Hyundai’s sales fell 1.9%.

Kurt McNeil, GM’s U.S. vice president of sales sperations, said the automaker, sales have been steadily improving even as the automaker battled the negative publicity related to its recall of 2.5 million older model vehicles.

“GM’s retail sales, like the weather and the economy as a whole, have been on an improving trend since early February,” McNeil said in a statement. “We expect to see solid economic growth in the months ahead.”

In March, Buick’s sales increased 13.4% at Buick, 7.4% at GMC and 3.3% at Chevrolet. Sales fell 6.3% at Cadillac.

Chrysler’s sales were led by the Jeep Cherokee SUV and Ram 1500 pickups.

Jeep sales soared 47%, while Ram was up 29%, Fiat, up 24%, and Dodge increased 1%. But Chrysler brand sales fell 23%.

“We are entering the spring selling season on a high note as our Jeep and Fiat brands recorded their best sales months ever and Chrysler Group extended its streak in March to 48-consecutive months of year-over-year sales increases,” Reid Bigland, Chrysler’s head of U.S. sales said in a statement.

Ford sales were driven by a record March for the mid-size Fusion. Sales of the F-Series pickup totaled 70,940.

“March sales turned noticeably higher mid-month and finished strong,” said John Felice, Ford vice president, U.S. marketing, sales and service.

“Traffic got stronger as the month progressed,” Felice said in a call with analysts. “The industry responds to a spring market.”

A strong March suggests the second quarter will be better than the first quarter, said Erich Merkle, Ford sales analyst.

Sales of new cars and trucks were lower than expected in January and February, but started to rebound slightly in March, according to industry forecasters.

“Car buyers who chose not to brave the cold weather last month found plenty of opportunity this month,” said Jessica Caldwell, analyst. “Now that spring has arrived, weather conditions shouldn’t have the impact on car shoppers it had at the beginning of 2014, and we’ll be able to get a better sense of the true strength of the marketplace in coming months.”

LMC Automotive has cut its industry forecast for the year from 16.2 million to 16.1 million.

“The selling pace for the year was slow out of the gate, but the industry remains poised for stable growth in the near-to mid-term,” said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive.

Kelley Blue Book said the industry’s total sales for the first three months of the year are expected to exceed 3.68 million – a 0.3% decline from the first quarter of 2013.

“Following two months of weaker-than-expected sales, the industry should start to bounce back in March,” said Alec Gutierrez, an analyst for Kelley Blue Book.


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