Auto sales in the U.S. rose by 3.4% year-over-year to 1.45 million vehicles in March, the best monthly sales in almost six years. This translated into a seasonally adjusted rate (SAAR) of 15.27 million units for the year, up about 8.0% from 14.14 million units in the same month of 2012. Better construction market, cheap financing, strong pent-up demand and improving consumer confidence continue to fuel sales growth.
All the six major automakers posted a single-digit rise in sales during the month. Among them, Honda Motor Co. (HMC - Analyst Report) topped in terms of sales growth. Let us take a look at the numbers posted by these automakers.
Ford Motor Co. (F - Analyst Report) sales rose 5.7% to 235,643 vehicles, driven mainly by the impressive sales of its revamped Fusion sedan and Escape SUV. Fusion sales grew 6% while Escape sales soared 28% during the month.
General Motors Company (GM - Analyst Report) posted a 6.4% rise in sales to 245,950 vehicles in March, driven by strong sales of its Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck with an 8.4% increase. Notably, sales of its Chevy Traverse crossover SUV surged 55% to nearly 11,000 units.
Chrysler Group – controlled by Italy’s Fiat SpA – recorded a 5.0% rise in sales to 171,606 vehicles. The automaker’s sales were mainly boosted by recovering pickup truck sales during the month. Ram pickup was the hot selling model in the month with a 25% increase.
Toyota Motor Corp. (TM - Analyst Report) sales edged up 1.0% to 205,342 units due to poor Toyota division sales. Lexus sales escalated 15.1% while sales of Camry and Prius models declined in the month.
Honda Motor recorded a 7.1% rise in sales to 136,038 vehicles after reporting a drop in the previous month. The company’s sales were mainly boosted by a 30% increase in sales of redesigned Accord midsize sedan.
Nissan Motor Co. (NSANY - Snapshot Report) posted a meager 1.0% rise in sales to 137,726 vehicles. Nissan Division saw its highest volume ever, delivering 126,623 vehicles, up 0.4% from the prior year. Infiniti deliveries went up 9.0% to 11,103 units in the month.
Among the other automakers, sales of Volkswagen AG (VLKAY - Snapshot Report) inched up 3.1% to 37,704 vehicles. Sales of its Audi luxury-brand grew 14.4% to 13,253 vehicles. Meanwhile, Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Co.’s sales dipped 2.0% to 68,306 vehicles in the month.
Strong pent-up demand, easier car finance and improving macroeconomic conditions will continue to act as a catalyst to rejuvenate U.S. auto sales to the pre-recession level. Good news is that improving auto sales will also help the overall economic recovery in the U.S. being a key industry for growth. Full year sales are expected to exceed 15 million units compared with 14.5 million units in 2012.
GM expects a 7% rise in industry sales in 2013. Meanwhile, Ford predicted an 8% gain in the year, which reflects more than a threefold rise compared with the overall economic growth of 2%–2.5% forecast by the automaker.