2012 Chrysler 300 SRT8. Photo by Alex BellusEnlarge Photo
New-car sales gained momentum in February, as most automakers reported rising sales volumes for the month.
With numbers still coming in from around the industry today, Chrysler again has turned in some of the best sales numbers, with an increase of 44 percent over the year-ago period. That topped Volkswagen, which had its best month since the Watergate era and posted a 42.5-percent sales increase.
Elsewhere in Detroit, Ford's sales were up by 14 percent, while General Motors watched its sales rise 1.1 percent. Among other big automakers, Nissan posted a 15.5-percent increase.
February's figures represented a major uptick even from January, when automakers hit a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 14.2 million sales, with nearly 1 million actual sales.
The numbers are triggering more optimism from automakers, with some predicting a February SAAR as high as 14.9 million units. Chrysler estimates February sales across the industry will top 1.1 million units, thanks to "stronger employment and credit availability, an improving housing market and the recovery in consumer sentiment." Ford says it will increase production by 3 percent to accommodate rising demand.
The last time the SAAR hit 14.9 million units was in 2008.The totals for February 2012, as reported by the automakers:
General Motors: GM (NYSE: GM) reported sales rose 1.1 percent over February 2011, to 209,306 units. Chevrolet's sales were up 5.8 percent to 151,197 units; GMC rose 0.1 percent at 32,581 vehicles. However, Buick sales fell to 14,023 units, off 11.3 percent, and Cadillac was down to 11,505 units, a decrease of 27 percent.
Ford: Ford (NYSE: F) saw its sales grow by 14 percent in February, with total sales of 179,119 vehicles. Ford-branded vehicles accounted for 172,207 units, while Lincoln had a 16-percent increase, to 6,912 vehicles. Ford says the Focus--TheCarConnection's 2012 Best Car To Buy--sold better than it has in 12 years, while the outgoing Escape maintains its torrid sales with a best-ever February. Among trucks, Ford's V-6 F-150 now accounts for 57 percent of retail sales for the lineup.
Toyota / Lexus / Scion: Toyota's sales were up 7.9 percent from a year ago, at 159,423 units. The Toyota division sold 89,325 units, up 15.1 percent; Lexus reported passenger car sales of 9,800 units, up 58.8 percent over February 2011. Scion posted February sales of 4,938 units, increasing 20.2 percent over a year ago.
Chrysler: Chrysler says its total sales of 133,521 vehicles marks a 40-percent increase over the same period in 2011. Chrysler-branded vehicles accounted for 27,008 units, for a rise of 114 percent; Dodge counted 42,692 sales, 27 percent better than February 2011; Jeep moved 37,312 vehicles, up 30 percent; Ram trucks sold 22,595 units, up 21 percent; and Fiat sold 3,227 copies of the 500 subcompact. Chrysler's 300 had an incredible 480-percent sales gain on the month, while the Dodge Charger was up 124 percent.Honda / Acura: Honda sold 110,157 vehicles in February, up 7.8 percent over February 2011. Honda-branded vehicles accounted for 98,899 units, up 8.8 percent, while Acura's sales of 24,759 vehicles represented an increase of 24.5 percent.
Nissan / Infiniti: Nissan sales were up strongly in February--15.5 percent above the same period in 2011. The Nissan brand accounted for 97,492 of the company's 106,731 U.S. sales, up 17.1 percent; Infiniti sold 9,239 vehicles, up 1 percent. Nissan says its Altima sedan posted a February sales record of 32,953 units, even as it prepares to launch a new Altima at April's New York auto show. However, sales of the Leaf electric car fell from January's totals, while the Chevy Volt almost doubled its tally.