We are getting enough of a feel for March sales now for me to give an indication as to the sales pacing. (And to at least begin to answer the questions raised in my last post.)
The news is mostly good. While March will not continue the run of the month-over-month SAAR increases we have enjoyed recently, the unit sales will show a nice increase from February.
Right now, retail sales are tracking at a pace of 1.13m units, which translates to a SAAR of 11.4m. This compares with roughly 900k units sold and a SAAR of 11.8m from last month. If we assume a fleet mix of around 22%, which is about the same as last month, then the total unit sales for March will be around 1.44m units, for a SAAR of 14.6m. (Compared to 1.095m or a SAAR of 15.1m last month).
This unit sales performance is significant because March is the first month of the year where sales typically jump after lulls in January and February. March is following this general pattern, and while the SAAR is not quite as high as February, it is still at a level that suggests the recovery in auto sales has hit a significantly higher tier. Let's hope this continues.
Looking at retail share, there are a couple of surprises. Toyota and Honda are bouncing back from last year's product shortages as expected, although inventories for Honda are still light. But what is happening with GM, with a share drop of 14% from last month? Some of this drop might be attributed to buyers returning to Toyota and Honda, but wouldn't that be felt more evenly by Ford, Chrysler and others — as well as GM?
We will have to wait a few weeks to see if this is just a blip or if something more is going on...
Here is the detail: