Auto sales in the U.S. slipped below seasonally adjusted rate (SAAR) of 15 million units to 14.92 million vehicles in April for the first time since October last year due to weak commercial customer (fleet) sales. However, it increased from the year-ago level of 14.42 million units by 3.5%. Total vehicle sales rose 8.5% to 1.29 million vehicles in the month.
Among the six major automakers (U.S. and Japanese), Nissan Motor Co. (NSANY) topped all the automakers in terms of sales growth. Let us look at the sales figure by individual automakers.
Ford Motor Co. (F - Analyst Report) sales rose 18.0% to 211,984 vehicles, driven mainly by strong demand for its redesigned Escape SUV. Escape sales surged 52% to 25,826 units, making the best April since the model went on sale 13 years ago. Sales of Ford’s F-Series pickup, the best-selling vehicle in the U.S., grew 24% due to continuous demand from homebuilders and other businesses.
General Motors Company (GM - Analyst Report) posted an 11.4% rise in sales to 237,646 vehicles in April, driven by strong sales of its all four brands and especially Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck. Sales increased 11% for Chevrolet, 34% for Cadillac, 11% for Buick and 7% for GMC. Silverado sales escalated 28% to 39,395 units.
Chrysler Group – controlled by Italy’s Fiat SpA – recorded an 11.0% rise in sales to 156,698 vehicles, driven by strong sales of Ram pickup truck. Ram pickup sales soared 49% to 32,124 during the month. Jeep brand sales grew 2% to 39,426 units but Chrysler brand sales dipped 13% to 27,836 units.
Toyota Motor Corp. (TM - Analyst Report) sales slid 1.1% to 176,160 units due to weak car sales. Car sales in the month went down 9.5% to 89,956 units but truck sales improved 11.6% to 68,113 units. Toyota’s revamped RAV4 posted best-ever April sales of 18,541 units, a 22% rise from the prior year.
Honda Motor Co. (HMC - Analyst Report) recorded a 7.4% rise in sales to 130,999 vehicles driven by strong sales gain (12%) of CR-V, which posted its best April ever. Sales of Honda's popular Accord sedan fell 5.2%, while Civic sales rose 8.3% in the month.
Nissan Motor posted an impressive 23.2% rise in sales to 87,847 vehicles. Nissan Division sales rose 24.6% to 80,003 units, driven by models like Altima, Pathfinder, Sentra and Rogue. Sales of Infiniti vehicles grew 10% to 7,844 units in the month.
Other Foreign Automakers
Among the other foreign automakers, sales of Volkswagen AG (VLKAY) dipped 10.3% to 33,644 vehicles. Meanwhile, sales of Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Co.’s inched up 1.7% to 63,315 vehicles driven by double-digit gains of its Elantra and Azera vehicles, partially offset by global slowdown in demand and competitive pressure from Japanese automakers due to weakening yen.
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. Despite some headwinds, 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 threefold rise compared with the overall economic growth of 2%–2.5% forecasted by the automaker.