Whereas January proved better than expected -- and expectations were pretty optimistic given that 2011 ended on a high note -- February was practically gangbusters. At the start of the year, most analysts were predicting that sales for 2012 would come in somewhere in the 13 million-unit range. The pace in January was over 14 million. That was good, but February was even better, touching 15 million units. That compares to 12.8 million new cars and trucks sold in 2011. If auto sales can maintain that pace -- and that's a big if -- it would mean the industry has fully recovered from the 2008 crash.
Delving a bit deeper into the February numbers, we see good results across the board, with no serious laggards. With gasoline prices shooting up towards month end, it's perhaps no surprise to see particularly strong sales among small cars. But if gasoline prices continue to spike, it could choke off new-car demand overall, and end this party just as it's getting started.
FEBRUARY 2012 SALES RESULTS, AND PERCENT CHANGE VERSUS FEBRUARY 2011.(One quick note on percentage increases: These are raw February-to-February comparisons, which don't take into account the fact that February 2012 had one extra day due to leap year.)
GENERAL MOTORS +1%After slipping last month, General Motors managed -- just barely -- to move into positive territory in February, and it was all Chevrolet. Buick and Cadillac were both down again, and GMC improved to flat.
Small cars did well again this month, with the Cruze topping the 20,000-unit mark and the Sonic more than doubling sales of the old Aveo. But trucks contributed as well, with some of the lesser lights -- Suburban, Colorado, big vans, and the Avalanche -- seeing the biggest percentage gains. Oh, and the Volt had another 4-figure sales month.
Most GMC SUVs fell but commercial favorites like the big vans and the Canyon offset that.
The new Verano has arrived, but it isn't yet making up for the departing Lucerne. Of the continuing models, the LaCrosse was up (+21%) but the Regal (-29%) and the Enclave (-20%) were down.
An ugly month for Cadillac saw every model below year-ago levels.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY +14%A good month for the F-series makes for a good month for the Ford division, and a good month for the Ford division makes for a good month for Ford Motor Company. But February was about more than just the F-series; Ford cars actually outpaced the increase in Ford truck sales. And Lincoln also chipped in too, for a change.
The F-series (+26%) added the most volume, but the Focus enjoyed the biggest percentage increase, and was the bestselling non-F-series Ford. The Mustang doubled its weak, year ago figure. The Fiesta declined (-12%) despite the popularity of small cars in general, and the Taurus (-23%) and Flex (-15%) were once again in the negative column.
All Lincolns, save the discontinued Town Car, were up in February. The MKS (+51%) increased the most, percentage-wise.
TOYOTA MOTOR SALES +12%Toyota is accelerating its increases over last year -- a trend we expect will continue, not only due to growing sales but also because last year Toyota didn't really fall off a cliff until the tsunami in April, so their year-over-year comparisons will soon look a lot more dramatic.
The redesigned Camry (+27%) was once again the second-best-selling nameplate in all the land, displacing the Chevy Silverado from its traditional spot. The Avalon (+73%) and the Yaris (+86%) enjoyed big increases, while the Prius was up by half. Things were less happy on the truck side, where the Highlander, Sienna, Tundra, 4Runner, and Land Cruiser all declined.
Lexus finally had its turnaround month, thanks mostly to the arrival of the new GS. The added volume from the CT also helped. Working against that most seriously were the RX (-12%) and the GX (-33%).
You can thank the iQ for Scion's sales growth in February. The tiny iQ also squirted past the xD this month.