Loosening Credit, Gas Prices Spark Consumer "March" Back to Car Dealer ships, Says Edmunds.com

Loosening Credit, Gas Prices Spark Consumer "March" Back to Car Dealer ships, Says Edmunds.com

Loosening Credit, Gas Prices Spark Consumer"March" Back to Car Dealer ships, Says Edmunds.com

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — March 29, 2012 — Loosening credit and a shift to more fuel-efficient small cars continues to drive automotive sales, according to the March sales forecast from Edmunds.com, the premier online resource for automotive information. Edmunds.com estimates that 1,451,956 new cars will be sold in March, for a projected Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate (SAAR) of 14.9 million units. The projected sales results would be a 26.4 percent percent increase over February 2012 and a 16.5 percent increase over March 2011.

"After delaying purchases over the last couple of years, consumers are eager to jump into the new car market," says Jessica Caldwell, Senior Analyst at Edmunds.com."Vehicle trade-in rates have achieved sustained highs in recent months, which suggests that consumers have decided that they've held on to their cars for too long. And with the average credit score for new car buyers at its lowest level since the first half of 2008, the market is clearly becoming a friendlier place for all buyers."

As fuel prices continue to rise nationally, so, too, is consumer preference for small fuel-efficient vehicles. The market share of subcompact and compact vehicles is expected to climb 11.0 percent and 5.8 percent, respectively, from February to March. Midsize market share is also projected to climb 2.3 percent over the same period.

Sales Volume Mar-12 Forecast Mar-11 Feb-12 Change from Mar 2011 Change from Mar 2011 (adjusted)* Change from Feb 2012
GM 249,137 206,621 209,306 20.6% 16.3% 19.0%
Ford 222,564 212,295 178,644 4.8% 1.1% 24.6%
Toyota 215,122 176,222 159,423 22.1% 17.7% 34.9%
Chrysler 164,226 121,730 133,521 34.9% 30.1% 23.0%
Honda 139,431 133,650 110,157 4.3% 0.6% 26.6%
Nissan 136,812 121,141 106,731 12.9% 8.9% 28.2%
Industry 1,451,956 1,246,059 1,149,068 16.5% 12.4% 26.4%
*NOTE: March 2012 had 28 sales days; March 2011 had 27

Edmunds.com estimates that retail SAAR will come in at 11.8 million vehicles in March, with fleet transactions accounting for 20.6 percent of total sales. An estimated 3.64 million used cars will be sold in March, for a SAAR of 38.3m (compared to 3.55 million — or a SAAR of 39.2 million — used car sales in February).

Chrysler celebrates an anniversary of sorts this month: it has been exactly one year since the Detroit automaker's market share last came in below ten percent. Its momentum continues this month with year-over-year sales and market share poised to climb more than any other major auto manufacturer. Chrysler will sell over 164,000 vehicles in March, almost 34.9 percent more than last year, and its anticipated market share of 11.3 percent this month is a 1.5 percentage point jump over March 2011.

Market Share Mar-12 Forecast Mar-11 Feb-12 Change from Mar 2011 Change from Feb 2012
GM 17.2% 16.6% 18.2% 0.6% -1.1%
Ford 15.3% 17.0% 15.5% -1.7% -0.2%
Toyota 14.8% 14.1% 13.9% 0.7% 0.9%
Chrysler 11.3% 9.8% 11.6% 1.5% -0.3%
Honda 9.6% 10.7% 9.6% -1.1% 0.0%
Nissan 9.4% 9.7% 9.3% -0.3% 0.1%

Toyota, meanwhile, is expected to be the top performer among the Big 3 Japanese automakers, thanks to healthier inventory and favorable pricing. Edmunds.com expects Toyota sales to increase 22.1 percent, year over year, with a 0.7 percentage point boost in market share.

About Edmunds (http://www.edmunds.com/help/about/index.html)

Edmunds.com, the premier online resource for automotive information, launched in 1995 as the first automotive information Web site. Its acclaimed mobile site, Edmunds.com Android App and five-star Edmunds iPhone and iPad apps make car pricing and other research tools available for car shoppers at dealerships and on the go. Its automotive enthusiast web site, InsideLine.com, is the most-read car publication of its kind. Its highly regarded mobile site and iPhone app features the wireless Web's most comprehensive gallery of automotive photos and videos. Edmunds is headquartered in Santa Monica, California, and maintains a satellite office in suburban Detroit. Follow Edmunds.com on Twitter@edmunds and fan Edmunds.com on Facebook.

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