Polar Vortex Froze Ford, GM And Toyota January Auto Sales – Forbes

Posted: Tuesday, February 04, 2014

No one likes to drive in the snow, and according to new January auto sales results, no one likes to buy cars while it’s snowing, either.

Ford, General Motors General Motors and Toyota released lower-than-expected January sales Monday, posting year-over-year sales declines that each said could be contributed to January’s frigid temperatures and snowy weather. Only Chrysler managed to post a sales gain, inexplicably escaping the blows from the likes winter storms Hercules, Janus and Leon.

“The bad weather only seemed to affect our competitors’ stores as we had a great January with sales up 8 percent and achieved our 46th-consecutive month of year-over-year sales increases,” Reid Bigland, Chrysler’s head of U.S. sales, said in a statement Monday morning. Led by Jeep sales, which increased 38% — the most of any Chrysler brand –Chrysler sold 127,183 vehicles in January, up from 117,731 units sold in January 2013.

Chrysler did not comment on the success of its Bob Dylan-centric Super Bowl spot, which had the unfortunate luck of airing toward the end of the third quarter of the game, when the Seahawks had established themselves as the clear winner and when many viewers were likely tuning out.

Meanwhile, Ford sold 154,644 vehicles in January, a 7% decline over the same time last year and missing analyst estimates of 157,441 vehicles sold. Despite the decline, Ford’s vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service, John Felice, said the company was lucky not to have seen an even greater decrease. “Given the difficult weather in our largest sales regions, we are fortunate to have held in at retail as well as we did,” Felice said in a statement on Monday. “In areas where the weather was good, such as in the West, sales were up.”

Ford’s fleet sales were also off in January, by about 14%. Again, the automaker pointed to the winter weather as the reason for the decline, which it said hampered its ability to fill a portion of its fleet orders.

The third of Detroit’s Big Three, GM, delivered 171,486 vehicles in January, missing analyst projections of 187,782 vehicles sold and marking a 12% decline in overall sales compared to the same time last year. GM noted that January is historically the industry’s lowest sales month of the year, but its own sales were further depressed by “extreme winter weather” in the South, Midwest and Northeast.

Rather than dwell on the negative effects of the polar vortex’s negative temperatures, GM’s vice president of U.S. sales operations, Kurt McNeil, instead teased “major launches” that will come in 2014, which include the launch of a new Chevy Silverado and an ad push during the Olympics and March Madness.

For its part, Toyota said it sold 146,365 units in January, a decrease of 7.2% from the same time last year and a miss compared to analyst estimates of 153,003 units sold. Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president and general manager, said in a statement that while he’s pleased with the company’s retail sales and the fact that January got off to a solid start, “ weather condition slowed industry sales in key markets late in the month.”

Following the release of January’s disappointing sales results, shares of the publicly-traded Ford, GM and Toyota predictably fell in Monday trading, with Ford trading for a 3.1% loss, GM down 2.2% and Toyota down 1.1% in the early afternoon. Year-over-year GM is the winner of the group with its 29% return against Ford’s 16% gain and Toyota’s 17% increase.

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