Maybe it was those Superbowl ads. Or, more likely, it was the release of some pent-up demand-particularly on the truck side, where business owners last year had all but shut down new-vehicle purchasing. After a fairly healthy start in January, sales acceleratd to a seasonally adjusted annual clip of better than 13 million units, which is better than we've seen in the last two years, save for during the Cash-for-Clunkers giveaway in summer 2009. Overall, the industry bettered the sluggish pace of last February (2010's weakest month) by 27%.
The only clouds on the horizon are gasoline prices, which have just touched $4 a gallon in the bellwether state of California. In 2008, $4-a-gallon gasoline is what first tripped up the auto industry; now that most manufacturers have stronger small-car offerings, we'll see if higher fuel prices (should they take hold) cause the industry to stumble again, or whether it can dance around that obstacle.
FEBRUARY SALES RESULTS, and percent change versus February 2010
GENERAL MOTORS +50% (Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC only)
General Motors boasted an eye-popping 50% increase over February 2010, although keep in mind that last February was particularly horrid for GM, when the company actually ceded the number one spot to Ford. This month, trucks particularly did well, and the company also benefitted from increased leasing.
Pickups are back-not just the Silverado (+60%), but even the Colorado, which doubled. Old-school SUVs increased (Suburban +42%, Tahoe +52%), but new-school crossovers did even better: Traverse +62%, Equinox +92%. On the car side, the Cruze is handily beating Cobalt volumes, and came within spitting distance of the aging Honda Civic.
The Lucerne doubled year-ago sales, but is still the least-popular Buick sedan. Most of Buick's additional sales came from the addition of the Regal, which sits exactly in between the LaCrosse and the Lucerne in sale volume.
Sales of the CTS more than doubled and, less impressively, so did those of the ancient DTS. The SRX is now easily outselling the Escalade (all of them) by better than 2 to 1.
A good month for trucks is a good month for GMC. And indeed, Yukon sales doubled, and the Terrain (+90%) and the Sierra (+86%) came close.