Compacts, Car Models Add Momentum to February US Sales Totals

In February, fuel-efficient, compact models, including new and redesigned entries from the Detroit-based automakers, were in demand in the US market. On a selling-day-adjusted basis*, February deliveries were up slightly more than 11% from a year ago, and the seasonally adjusted annual sales rate (SAAR) translated to just over 15.0 million units, based on analysis from J.D. Power’s Power Information Network® (PIN) and LMC Automotive.

The Volkswagen Group (+26.8%) and Chrysler Group LLC (+34.8%) posted the largest year-over-year increases and outpaced the industry, despite a spike in gasoline prices, which are up by as much as 45 cents per gallon since the first of the year. At the same time, smaller models were more popular this year. Sub-compact segment deliveries climbed 38% in February vs. a year ago and accounted for 4.3% of industry sales, up from a 3.46% share in the prior year.

Positive factors driving February 2012 deliveries include an improving US economy, a drop in the unemployment rate, an advance in consumer confidence, and better stock market numbers, in addition to pent-up demand from owners replacing their older vehicles.

A Majority of Multi-Brand Automakers Post Increases

All multi-franchise automakers, except General Motors, posted increases from a year ago on a selling-day-adjusted basis. There were 25 selling days in February 2012 vs. 24 in February 2011. General Motors posted a 2.9% dip (a single-digit gain if unadjusted), including a 1.6% increase from its flagship Chevrolet brand, which received a boost from fuel-efficient compact models such as the Cruze and Sonic, as well as the Equinox.

In addition, two of the three major Japanese automakers, Toyota and Honda Groups, posted single-digit increases from last February. Inventories are now replenished for Toyota (+7.9%) and Honda (+7.8%) after last year’s production setbacks following the destructive March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Toyota’s redesigned Camry, the Prius, Yaris, and the Scion lineup were strong sellers in February. Lexus sales (+15.9%) also climbed from year-ago totals. Honda Group’s redesigned CR-V posted its best February sales and nearly one-third more new Civics were delivered in February vs. the same month last year.

Nissan Group continued to outpace its Japanese rivals and posted a nearly 11% gain vs. a year ago, with strong results for Nissan Altima and Rogue. Korean Hyundai Group sales in the US were up nearly 21%, helped by strong demand for Hyundai’s Accent, Elantra and Accent models as well as Kia Optima, Soul and Sorento. Kia brand deliveries rose 31.8% from February 2011.

Demand Rises Significantly for Chrysler and VW Car Models

Chrysler Group’s enriched model lineup now includes the Fiat 500Fiat sales were the strongest of any month since being re-launched in the US market. Chrysler brand car sales more than doubled with big gains for the Chrysler 200 and 300. VW Group’s strong sellers included the US-built Passat, and the Tiguan and Jetta also achieved strong gains. Also, VW Group said that TDI clean-diesel models accounted for more than 21% of VW sales in February.

Ford Motor Co. posted a 9.7% increase, and saw sales of the redesigned Focus more than double while reporting best-ever February sales for the Escape. Good news also was reported by the Detroit automaker’s Lincoln brand—sales were up 11.6% from a year ago.

BMW (+26.2%) and Daimler (+13.4%) Groups also reported double-digit increases from February 2011 with BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus, respectively, holding onto luxury sales honors for the month. BMW’s redesigned 3 Series sales climbed in high double digits from a year ago.

Three of the four independents posted year-over-year sales increases. Suzuki’s 41.7% gain was primed by SX4 and Kizashi model sales. Mazda sales rose by 27% from a year ago due to the strength of car models, including the Mazda2, Mazda3, Mazda6 and MX-5 Miata. Fuji Heavy Industries’ Subaru brand’s Impreza more than doubled sales, and the brand celebrated its third straight month of record sales (+12.3%). Mitsubishi Motors sold 34% fewer models than a year ago, but posted better results for the Outlander and Outlander Sport. Philly Murtha, editor at J.D. Power and Associates

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