- On Tuesday, Chrysler, Ford and General Motors reported solid sales for March.
- The year's strong sales start caused Edmunds.com to revise its 2013 auto sales forecast up to 15.5 million light vehicles.
- "Car shoppers seem unfazed by fiscal issues in the news," said Lacey Plache, Ph.D., Edmunds.com chief economist. "Even though consumer confidence has been up and down so far this year, there are 'wealth effects' that are making Americans feel comfortable finally buying the new cars they've been waiting for."
DETROIT — Chrysler, Ford and General Motors, along with most of the auto industry, reported strong March sales on Tuesday.
"The American consumer appears to be quite confident of the economy, with snowstorms and sequesters not deterring them a bit," said Michelle Krebs, Edmunds.com senior analyst. "The story is the same as it has been: pent-up demand is being unleashed, credit is readily available at cheap rates and new products are resonating with consumers."
At the same time, Edmunds.com revised its 2013 auto sales forecast up to 15 million light vehicles.
"Car shoppers seem unfazed by fiscal issues in the news," said Lacey Plache, Ph.D., Edmunds.com chief economist. "Even though consumer confidence has been up and down so far this year, there are 'wealth effects' that are making Americans feel comfortable finally buying the new cars they've been waiting for."
Chrysler Group reported U.S. sales of 171,606 units, a 5 percent increase compared with sales in March 2012. The Dodge Avenger and Dodge Challenger each set all-time sales records in March. The Dodge Challenger recorded what Chrysler called a "substantial" 42 percent sales gain. Chrysler Group extended the company's streak of U.S. sales gains to a record 36 months in March.
Monthly sales declined at Jeep, however. Chrysler said Jeep's year-over-year sales were down 13 percent. The company said the decline was "due to Jeep Liberty production ending in August and the ongoing product launches of and launch preparations for the new 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee , the Jeep Cherokee (the Liberty replacement) and the Jeep Compass and Patriot."
General Motors said it sold 245,950 vehicles in the U.S. in March, up 6 percent compared with a year ago. Cadillac was up almost 50 percent, with the new, entry-level Cadillac ATS marking its best sales month yet with deliveries of 3,587 units.
Ford's sales rose 6 percent in March, with sales of the 2013 Fusion and Escape setting all-time monthly records. Ford and Lincoln sales in March totaled 236,160 units. The Ford F-Series posted a 16 percent increase in March, with Ford noting that the full-size pickup truck market continues to improve versus a year ago.
However, Lincoln sales were disappointing. Together, Lincoln cars, the MKZ and MKS, were down 31.1 percent, while Lincoln SUVs (MKX, MKT and Navigator) were down 22.5 percent.
In its sales preview Tuesday morning, Toyota said its March sales crept up 1 percent. The Japanese automaker's U.S. arm reported monthly sales of 205,342 units in March.
"At Toyota we had our best month since Cash for Clunkers in August of 2009," said Bob Carter, Toyota Motors Sales USA senior vice president of automotive operations, in a statement. "A strong first-quarter close and increased consumer confidence continue to position the auto industry as a leader in the economic recovery."
Nissan North America said its March U.S. sales totaled 137,726 (its best month ever), up 1 percent over March 2012.
In March, Nissan's Leaf electric car had its best month since launch, with 2,236 sales. Nissan credited that milestone to the debut of the U.S.-produced, lower-priced 2013 model.
Volkswagen of America reported 37,704 units sold in March, a 3 percent increase over prior-year sales and its best March since 1973. The 2013 Jetta sedan was the volume leader for the automaker.
"While we are cautious in terms of economic outlook, we expect to see continued growth at a moderate pace in the months ahead," said Jonathan Browning, Volkswagen president and CEO, in a statement.
Edmunds says: The spring selling season appears to be off to a good start for the U.S. auto industry.