U.S. auto sales have been accelerating fairly steadily since the depths of 2009. In February, however, the percentage gain over last year was only 4%. Are sales trailing off? No, but the increases are. The annualized sales pace last month was nearly 15.4 million units, which was just ahead of January. The thing is, last February was pretty strong too; the pace back then also topped 15 million units. So it’s getting harder to notch big percentage increases. The good news is that we’re running at a pretty healthy clip.
Industry analysts site the now-familiar drivers: the cars on the road are old, weak sales in the past few years mean more people are wanting—or needing—a new car, and financing is readily available at low interest rates. A rapidly improving housing market is providing a boost to truck sales, as are generous incentives. Thanks to all that, buyers were able to shrug off distractions like the budget posturing in Washington and some nasty winter snowstorms. When buyers are in a buying mood, they’re going to buy. And at the moment, that appears to be the case.
FEBRUARY 2013 SALES RESULTS, AND PERCENT CHANGE VERSUS FEBRUARY 2012.
GENERAL MOTORS +7%
General Motors’ strength in February was more on the truck side than the car side, but no matter—GM enjoyed its second month of improving market share, with all four brands contributing.
The Verano jumped again, even compared to last month, and is now the bestselling Buick sedan. Unfortunately, that’s partly because Regal sales are collapsing (-44%) and the LaCrosse is also down (-30%). Buick also got a boost with the arrival of the Encore and a gain for the updated Enclave.
Cadillac surged on the strength of the ATS, which was again the bestselling Cadillac sedan, although it hasn’t quite caught the SRX. The aging Escalade was down (-16%), as was the CTS (-44%).
Trucks did it all at Chevrolet, as their 18% increase overcame a 9% drop in car sales. The Silverado (+29%) lead the way, topping 40,000 units. The fleet-only Captiva Sport jumped 69%. The car side was mostly negative, with a notable exception being the Volt (+59%); Chevy’s other gas misers, the Cruze (-12%) and the Sonic (-24%), didn’t fare as well.
A good month for pickup trucks is going to be a good month for GMC, and that’s what we saw in February. Sierra sales rose 25%, but some of those might have come at the expense of the Canyon (-83%). The Terrain (+21%) did well, as did the Yukons.
FORD MOTOR COMPANY +9%
Like General Motors, Ford grabbed a bit more market share in February, thanks to the F-series, the Fusion, the Escape, and the Explorer. Best not ask about Lincoln, though.
The F-series crested 50,000 units, buoyed by the housing recovery. The Escape was America’s bestselling SUV, and the Explorer (+67%) had a big month too. The Fusion (+28%) fell 124 cars short of the Honda Accord, just missing the number-two spot among passenger cars. The Focus (-11%) was down slightly.
Saved by Twitter? Looks like no. Lincoln’s Twitter-generated Superbowl ad did nothing to help the MKZ (-62%). The MKS and MKT scratched out small gains, but the overall picture was bleak.
TOYOTA MOTOR SALES +4%
After a big jump in January, Toyota could only tread water in February, as its year-over-year sales increase exactly matched the market overall.
The Camry was off slightly, but retained bestselling car honors. The Corolla/Matrix (+13%) continues to defy age and gravity, while the Yaris (-43%) can’t catch a break. Most non-car Toyotas were up moderately.
The new ES again did well (+61%) but the new GS did not (-54%).
The addition of the FR-S was just barely enough to overcome sinking sales for all other Scion models, most notably the iQ (-62%).