Auto Sales Up, But Increases Are Slowing Down


  • 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Picture

    2013 Volkswagen Jetta Picture

    The 2013 Volkswagen Jetta sedan was the volume leader for VW in February. | March 01, 2013

3 Photos

Just the Facts:
  • Automakers reported modest gains in February car sales on Friday, with more single-digit increases than double-digit ones.
  • Ford said U.S. sales in February were up 9 percent, while General Motors deliveries rose 7 percent compared to a year ago.
  • Chrysler Group reported a 4 percent increase in U.S. sales in February.

DETROIT — Automakers reported modest gains in February car sales on Friday, with more single-digit increases than double-digit ones. Car sales were announced as politicians in Washington reached a stalemate over sequestration or across-the-board budget cuts.

Ford said U.S. sales in February were up 9 percent, while General Motors deliveries rose 7 percent compared to a year ago.

Chrysler Group reported a 4 percent increase in U.S. sales in February, its smallest monthly gain in nearly three years.

"Not surprisingly, the year-over-year increases are moderating," said Michelle Krebs, an Edmunds senior analyst. "Still, many automakers reported their best February sales in five or six years, and it looks like the month will still come in at a very strong 15.5 million SAAR."

She added: "Consumers seem to be largely ignoring the shenanigans in Washington and are being driven to dealerships because their old vehicles are worn out and need to be replaced by new compelling and far more fuel-efficient ones. And they can get car loans as credit is increasingly available to more consumers."

Polls show that Americans seem to be shrugging off the budget battles in Washington, even though a slight majority says sequestration will hurt the economy.

General Motors expressed optimism about the year ahead, noting that the market for pickup trucks looks promising.

"The housing sector has now joined auto sales in propelling the U.S. economy forward," said Kurt McNeil, vice president of U.S. sales operations for General Motors, in a statement. "More importantly, the recovery in new home construction is reinforcing the underlying improvement in auto buying conditions, especially for pickups."

All four GM brands posted higher year-over-year sales: Cadillac was up 20 percent; Buick was up 15 percent; GMC was up 10 percent and Chevrolet was up 5 percent.

"Light vehicle sales have now been running at a mid-15-million unit annual rate since November," McNeil added. "This sets us up well for the launches of key new products this year."

Those products include the 2014 Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac CTS.

Ford reported its best February in six years, with cars up 6 percent, utilities up 21 percent and trucks up 4 percent. But Lincoln had lackluster results in February, with sales down 29.4 percent from a year ago. Lincoln sold 4,883 cars and sport-utes in February versus 6,912 in February 2012.

Chrysler's truck sales slipped 8 percent last month. The automaker said the drop in deliveries was due to the cautious launch of the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Compass and new 2013 Ram Heavy Duty truck line.

"Looking ahead, we expect to get our inventory gaps corrected over the next 90 days, resulting in additional products contributing to our growth," said Reid Bigland, head of U.S. sales for Chrysler Group, in a statement.

Toyota said combined sales of Toyota, Lexus and Scion increased 4.3 percent to 166,377 units.

"Despite rising gas prices, severe winter storms and concerns about the federal budget, February was a good indication of the overall strength of the market," said Bill Fay, group vice president and general manager for Toyota division, in a statement. "Toyota is well positioned and we're encouraged by very positive consumer reaction to our new Avalon and RAV4."

Volkswagen of America reported sales rose 2.9 percent over 2012, calling it the company's best February since 1973.

The Jetta sedan, the volume leader for Volkswagen, delivered 10,398 units.

Edmunds says: The U.S. auto industry seems to be chugging along, despite the budget battles in Washington.

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