2016 Ford Explorer, Honda Civic Spark Sizzling February Car Sales | Edmunds

2016 Ford Explorer, Honda Civic Spark Sizzling February Car Sales

DETROIT — The 2016 Ford Explorer midsize SUV and 2016 Honda Civic compact sedan were among the favorites of car shoppers in February, as many automakers reported robust sales on Tuesday.

Other showroom winners include the 2016 Chevrolet Trax, Jeep Cherokee, Nissan Murano, Toyota RAV4 and Volkswagen Tiguan SUVs.

Shoppers opened their wallets for a variety of reasons, including low gas prices, Super Bowl auto advertising and Presidents' Day deals.

The presidential race also is credited with giving car sales a boost.

"Election years might bring out the worst in political mudslinging, but they also seem to bring out the best in car shopper spending," said Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds.com director of industry analysis. "Every election cycle offers a sense of optimism that things will change for the better. That mood carries over to shoppers who grow more confident about making a big purchase like a new car."

Edmunds notes that since 1964, new-car sales have enjoyed year-over-year increases in every presidential election year, except 1980 and 2008.

In another noteworthy trend, Edmunds projected that 60 percent of vehicles sold in February will be light trucks. Ford and Fiat-Chrysler recorded double-digit sales gains last month due to the popularity of trucks and SUVs.

Ford said sales were up 20 percent in February versus a year ago as Ford-brand SUVs posted their best-ever February sales. Ford Edge sales increased 91 percent, Explorer was up 18 percent and Escape gained 14 percent.

Fiat-Chrysler reported U.S. sales of 182,879 units, a 12 percent increase compared with sales in February 2015.

"Continued strong demand for our Jeep vehicles drove the Jeep brand to its best February sales ever, while our Ram pickup truck and Ram vans recorded their best February sales ever," said Reid Bigland, Fiat-Chrysler North America senior vice president of sales, in a statement.

The Jeep Cherokee, Jeep Wrangler, Jeep Patriot and Jeep Compass each posted their best February sales ever.

Toyota tallied February sales of 189,852 vehicles, an increase of 5.2 percent from February 2015.

"Light trucks continue to drive strong demand in 2016," said Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president and general manager, in a statement. "The Toyota division had back-to-back, best-ever light truck monthly records, supported by another best-ever month in February for RAV4."

Nissan Division said sales were up 13 percent in February, also a record for the month. Sales of the 2016 Nissan Murano skyrocketed 86 percent to 7,445 units.

Nissan bucked the light-truck trend as well, saying that its total car sales were up 12 percent, setting a February record. Sales of the 2016 Nissan Sentra compact sedan increased 34 percent last month.

American Honda Motor Co. said shoppers snapped up the 2016 Honda Civic compact sedan.

"Civic, relying only on sales of the sedan, was the brand's best-selling model for the month, setting a new February record, with sales up 31.7 percent to 27,707 units," Honda said. "The all-new Civic Coupe will accelerate that momentum when it goes on sale in mid-March."

Overall Honda and Acura combined sales were up 12.8 percent in February.

Volkswagen of America stumbled in February as sales dropped 13 percent. The company said sales were down "due to seasonal fleet business," but VW is still grappling with the effects of its diesel-emissions scandal here.

The 2016 Volkswagen Tiguan produced the best February results on record for the vehicle as sales increased 78 percent, VW said.

General Motors sales fell 1.5 percent in February, "due to a planned reduction in rental deliveries," GM said.

But the Chevrolet Trax subcompact SUV and Chevrolet Colorado pickup truck were popular with shoppers.

"The economy is growing, Millennials are becoming a major force in the market and we're doing everything we can to meet retail demand, including increased production of midsize pickups and investing in additional V8 engine capacity," said Kurt McNeil, GM's U.S. vice president of sales operations, in a statement.

Edmunds says: Strong auto sales are expected to continue in 2016 with solid year-over-year lifts already apparent through the first couple of months.

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