Chrysler's March 2012 Sales Up 34 Percent; What Models Were Hot Last Month?

March 2012 proved kind to the Chrysler Group, as the automaker reports sales volumes rose 34 percent year-to-year to 163,381 vehicles. That makes March 2012 Chrysler's best sales month since March 2008, and a key part in the automaker posting it's best first quarter sales result in four years. "The combination of credit availability, an improving economy, pent-up demand, and even high fuel prices encouraging people to acquire newer, more fuel-efficient vehicles are helping to drive sales," Reid Bigland, President and CEO of the Dodge brand and head of Chrysler's U.S. sales operations, said oin a prepared statement."Thanks to these factors we experienced sales strength across the board." Indeed, all five of Chrysler's U.S. brands saw increases. Fiat sales were up 86 percent compared to last month, although it should be noted early Fiat 500 deliveries were intentionally limited to small volumes. Chrysler sales led the way thanks to a 70-percent year-to-year increase, while Jeep followed suit with a 36% percent. Dodge and its former Ram Trucks wing both posted 18-percent gains in the same time span. But what about the cars and trucks themselves? What was hot - and, for that matter, not so hot - for Chrysler in March 2012? Here's a quick rundown.

The Hots

Fiat 500: We'll call this an honorable mention. March 2012 sales amounted to 3712 vehicles - and when compared to 500 sales in March of 2011 (500 500s were sold), it looks like a massive 86-percent jump. That said, those 500 cars last March were merely limited-edition 500 Prima Edizione models. Perhaps we'll have a better glimpse at how 500 volumes are growing on a year-to-year basis in the months to come. Chrysler 200: Chrysler's midsize darling saw March volumes swell 121 percent year-to-year, growing to 14,914 models, making last month the 200's best sales month ever. Even if you combine last March's 200 and Sebring (the 200's ancestor) volumes, March 2012 200 sales still eclipsed that figure by nearly 7100 vehicles. Chrysler 300: A big month for Chrysler's big sedan. Volumes jumped 169 percent, as March sales rang in at 7336 cars. In comparison, only 2727 300 sedans were sold in March of 2011. Dodge Avenger: Yes, it's old, and showing its age in an increasingly competitive market segment, but Dodge's Avenger continues to find a surprisingly large number of new homes. Sales rose 57 percent compared to last March, coming in at 9362 units compared to the previous 5954. Year-to-date volumes are also up by a solid 84 percent, to boot. Jeep Liberty: Jeep's boxy little SUV saw volumes jump 46 percent, totaling 7605 units in March 2012. Thus far in 2012, Liberty volumes have also rose 44 percent to 21,799 - could Jeep fans be stocking up on the rough-and-tumble Liberty before it's replaced with a Fiat-based model next year? Dodge Journey: Dodge's midsize crossover - which recently gained a four-cylinder option on the mid-grade SXT trim - saw its sales increase 44 percent to 7659 deliveries. In general, people movers at Chrysler continue to do rather well. Grand Caravan sales rose 43 percent year-to-year in March 2012 to 13,700, while Chrysler's Town & Country volumes improved 32 percent to 12,476 units.

The Not-So-Hots

Dodge Charger and Challenger: Technically, both models posted sales gains in March 2012, but while the majority of Chrysler's offerings posted double-digit increases, these car's 7- and 8-percent jumps appear rather modest. Volumes totaled 9644 and 4304 units, respectively, but on the bright side, Chrysler says Challenger volumes set a new monthly sales record. Perhaps the new Challenger Rallye Redline package will further improve the muscle-coupe's fortunes. Dodge Durango: Again, this is still a sales gain, but Durango volumes only increased five percent in March 2012 - and the total volume, some 4590 vehicles, still trails competitors like the Ford Explorer (which, Ford gleefully noted this morning, sold over 13,000 units in March). Cumulative Durango sales in 2012 figures are a bit rosier, adding up to 11,046 vehicles, which is 33 percent stronger than the same time frame in 2011. Dodge/ Ram Dakota: Just when we thought dealers were exhausted of inventory, Chrysler managed to move another 82 examples last month, marking a 95-percent decrease year-to-year. Production ended in August, so these may be some of the last units off the line. Dodge Nitro: Dodge's version of the Jeep Liberty was unceremoniously axed from the lineup late last year, so it's no surprise volumes drop while dealers continue to expunge leftover inventories from their lots. Nitro sales dropped 73 percent year-to-year, amounting to 575 SUVs in total. Year-to-date volumes are also sliding: at 2665 units, it's about 56 percent lower than the same period last year. Dodge Caliber: Production ended in December, so volumes are predictably dropping. Sales slid 1500 units to 2242 Calibers, but that accounts for a 40-percent year-to-year drop. Year-to-date volumes have also dropped 45 percent; expect them to plunge further once 2013 Dart production hits its full stride. Source: Chrysler

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