We are well along in terms of March and the picture that is emerging is consistent with the pacing we saw earlier in the month. (Although, the share changes have moved a bit.)
Retail sales are still doing well. March retail sales should end up around 1.12m, for a SAAR of 11.4m. This is up from the roughly 900,000 unit sales we saw in February, but note that the SAAR is down slightly from February's 11.8m SAAR. (The SAAR algorithm assumes a big jump in sales from February to March.)
Assume fleet mix of around 22%, which is about the same as last month, and March will end with total sales of around 1.44m and a SAAR of 14.6m. (This compares with 1.095m units sold and a SAAR of 15.1m last month.)
Comparing the retail share with February, Nissan, Toyota, and BMW are up slightly. GM is still down, but they have gained ground from the big 14% drop we saw earlier in the month. Honda is also down slightly, which is a bit puzzling. (Considering gas prices.)
Here are the retail share change details:
As the media has been stridently pointing out, gas prices are up. This focus has had a clear impact on consumer buying preferences. (Despite the fact that the real world hit to consumers is modest. For a good perspective on this, check out this CNN Money piece)
Comparing the various segment retail shares with last month we see that the share for more fuel-efficient vehicles has jumped. (So have sport car and mid range luxury — two segments that are benefiting from improved consumer confidence.)
Here are the details:
We can also look at the same segments and compare with last year, as opposed to last month (see above chart). Gas prices rose last year as well, but this year the increases started earlier in the year. As you would expect, the segment shifts this year tie to this earlier climb in prices, but the shifts are much more modest. The data gets muddied by the rebound in truck sales overall, along with sports cars doing very well this year.
We will have our official sales forecast for March out next week.