GM Feb. sales up 4.2%, Ford down 4%, FCA down 10.1%
General Motors Co., driven by strong sales of pickup trucks and SUVs, said Wednesday its February sales rose 4.2 percent, while Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV each reported year-over-year sales declines.
Automakers report they continue to see consumers shift preferences toward trucks and SUVs, which is cutting into the sales of cars. Ford reported February car sales fell 24 percent from the same month a year ago -- a trend it doesn't expect to see change anytime soon. GM also said car sales slid 22.7 percent, while Nissan North America Inc. said car sales fell 12 percent and Toyota Motor North America, Inc. car sales dropped 17.2 percent last month compared to February 2016.
Ford in a call with analysts and reporters Wednesday said it expects car sales for the industry will represent around 35 percent of overall industry sales in February. That's down from 53 percent in 2010, the Dearborn automaker said.
Fiat Chrysler's February sales totaled 168,326 vehicles, down 10.1 percent from a year ago.
The company's Chrysler brand sales fell 28.1 percent, Jeep dropped 14.7 percent and Dodge brand sales dropped 6.6 percent. Ram sales increased by 3.6 percent.
The Fiat brand slipped 19.1 percent. Maserati jumped 49.3 percent. Alfa Romeo was also up 843 percent, as sales of the company's speedy Giulia sedan reached 412 units.
GM's sales of 237,388 in February exceeded analyst expectations.
The Detroit automaker said sales for the Chevrolet brand rose 3.4 percent and GMC sales soared 17.2 percent. Buick sales fell 9.4 percent and Cadillac sales slipped 8.6 percent.
The company said its retail sales, or those to consumers, increased 5 percent in February and its average sales price increased $570 to $34,900, which set a February record.
“Our retail-focused go-to-market strategy is delivering robust results,” Kurt McNeil, U.S. vice president of sales operations, said in a statement. “All of our brands grew their average transaction prices by healthy amounts, and we delivered solid growth in the industry’s fastest-growing and most profitable segments.”
Ford said it sold 208,440 vehicles in February, down 4 percent from the same month a year ago.
Ford brand sales fell 4.5 percent, while Lincoln brand sales increased 8.8 percent.
The company said it set a record February for SUV sales, moving 68,820 units; Ford F-Series sales increased 8.7 percent, with 65,956 pickups sold.
Mark LaNeve, vice president of Ford U.S. marketing, sales and service, said the F-Series had its best February sales performance in 13 years, and the fourth-best February in the truck's history. The company also saw the average transaction price for the F-Series increase by $3,600, he said.
"Our overall incentive spend on F-Series was down," LaNeve said. "So, we're very pleased with our strong full-size truck performance in the face of such escalation from a key competitor."
GM's sales of the Chevrolet Silverado pickup rose 17.1 percent to 50,504, and sales of the GMC Sierra jumped 15.9 percent from February 2016. The Detroit automaker said its incentive spending overall was flat compared to a year ago. But it did advertise deals around $10,000 off for certain pickups during its Truck Month promotion in February.
Overall February U.S. auto sales are expected to dip slightly compared to the number of new cars and trucks sold in February a year ago, analysts say.
Industry analysts from Kelley Blue Book, ALG and Edmunds forecast new vehicle sales will fall between 1 percent and 3 percent from February 2016, with sales last month reaching about 1.3 million. The current year could still be on pace for a record, according to Edmunds analysts, but automakers might have to be more aggressive in moving vehicles.
Nissan North America Inc. said it set a company record with 135,740 vehicles sold in February, up nearly 4 percent from a year ago. Volkswagen of America Inc. also jumped 12.7 percent to 25,145 vehicles compared to February 2016.
American Honda Motor Co. reported a 2.3 percent increase in sales over February last with, with total sales for Honda and the carmaker's Acura luxury brand hitting 121,686 units.
Toyota Motor North America, Inc. meanwhile reported it sold 174,339 vehicles in February, down 7.2 percent from last year.
Kia Motors America said February sales fell 14.2 percent to 42,673.
Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds executive director for industry analysis, said in a statement there are signs that automakers are starting to be more aggressive to move cars off the lot.
“Fleet sales were robust in February, and incentives are continuing to rise,” she said. “While trucks and SUVs don’t need as much help to find interested buyers, inventories of passenger cars have been building.”
Analysts at J.D. Power and LMC Automotive forecast that February sales increased 0.6 percent based on the first 16 selling days of February.
“We expect February to eke out a small increase over last year, despite bad weather giving a slow start to the month,” Deirdre Borrego, senior vice president of automotive data and analytics at J.D. Power, said in a statement.
Kelley Blue Book projects the biggest decrease in year-over-year sales, at 3 percent.
“Retail growth for manufacturers will be tough to achieve in February, as consumer demand remains relatively flat despite increased incentives,” Tim Fleming, analyst for Kelley Blue Book, said in a statement. “Regardless of the expected dip in overall volume, at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of more than 17 million, the sales pace for the industry is healthy, and more importantly, looks to be sustainable as we head into the high volume selling months ahead.”
Analysts at Edmunds and ALG expect an uptick in sales from GM, though Ford and Fiat Chrysler sales are expected to drop.