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April 2013 Car Sales: Strength In Numbers

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2014 Dodge Durango

2014 Dodge Durango

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A relatively stable economy and very low interest rates did their part, helping the auto industry to another strong month of car sales in April.

Overall, sales are expected to check in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of more than 15 million units, according to most analysts. Kelley Blue Book anticipates a SAAR of 15.3 million units in April. In their monthly joint survey, J.D. Power and Associates and LMC Automotive predict a SAAR of 15.2 million units, the same as in March.

The gains come even as car prices bubble up near all-time highs, offset by near-historic low interest rates for new-car loans and by longer terms for them--up 72 months or more. Kelley Blue Book says the average price of a new car dipped slightly last month by a half-percent, but remains high at $31,356, up more than $150 from a year ago.

New cars are getting help from climbing prices for used cars, says J.D. Power and Associates senior vice president of global automotive operations John Humphrey. Used prices are up 3.8 percent year over year, which is fueling interest in new cars.

“The strong used-vehicle prices we’re seeing are supporting new-vehicle demand and are reflective of the general pricing discipline being exhibited by new-vehicle manufacturers,” said Humphrey.

Power partners LMC Automotive say the combination of factors don't seem to be changing in the near term, and it's boosted its forecast for total 2013 light vehicle sales in the U.S. to 15.4 million units.

“...Consumer spending remains remarkably stronger than the economy suggests it should be,” said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive. “If the current favorable trend in the stock markets and housing continues throughout the year, the automotive market may be poised for a breakthrough performance.”

The automakers themselves are upbeat about prospects for the remainder of the year. Chrysler estimates the April SAAR at 15.3 million vehicles, including retail and fleet.

These sales figures have been reported by the automakers:

General Motors: GM [NYSE:GM] says it sold 237,646 vehicles in April, posting an 11-percent gain on last year's numbers. Chevrolet was up 10.9 percent to 172,460 units; GMC rose 6.7 percent to 34,799 vehicles sold. Cadillac's 34.3-percent gain lifted sales to 13,230 vehicles, while Buick was up 11.1 percent to 17,157 units. Among model lines, the Chevy Cruze posted a 31-percent gain, while GM's big trucks were up 23 percent. Before it's replaced this fall, the current Cadillac CTS is off 42.9 percent, while the Corvette was off 30.2 percent. Sales of the extended-range Chevy Volt electric car were off 10.7 percent.

Ford: Ford [NYSE: F] says it posted a sales increase of 17.9 percent for April, with the Ford brand up 17.8 percent and Lincoln returning to positive numbers with a 20.7-percent increase. In all, sales totaled 212,584 units. The Fusion continues to power ahead in the family-sedan segment, with 26,722 vehicles sold--up 24 percent. Escape was up 52 percent, and the F-Series trucks rose 24 percent to 59,030 units. Lincoln's MKZ finally started digesting its backlog of cars with a record month of 4,012 sales.

Toyota / Lexus / Scion: Toyota says it sold 176,160 units in April 2013, off 1.1 percent or down 5 percent on an adjusted basis. The Toyota brand accounted for 158,069 vehicles, off 1.5 percent (-5.4 percent, adjusted) while Lexus sold 18,091 units, up 3.1 percent (-1 percent adjusted). The Avalon boosted its numbers 119.4 percent for its best month since 2007. Toyota also sold 19,889 Prius-brand vehicles in April. Scion sold 5,697 units, up 3.5 percent (-0.6 percent adjusted).

Chrysler: Chrysler says it sold 156,698 vehicles in April, an increase of 11 percent over the same period a year ago--and, it says, its best April sales since 2007. By brands, Chrysler sold 27,836 vehicles, off 13 percent, with sales of the 300 sedan dropping 47 percent. Jeep sales were up 2 percent to 39,426 units, with the Compass pointing north 23 percent; Dodge sales were up to 53,413, an increase of 18 percent on the month, with Durango up 65 percent. With 32,124 units sold, Ram's numbers were up 49 percent, while Fiat moved 3,899 500 hatchbacks, for a 1-percent gain.

Honda / Acura: Honda says it sold 130,999 vehicles in the U.S. in April, up 7.4 percent (or 3.1 percent adjusted). Honda-branded vehicles accounted for 117,100 sales, up 6.6 percent, while Acura's 14.2-percent increase put it at 13,899 units in all. The Acura RLX automatically drew a few hundredfold more buyers than the old RL, with just 400 units sold; the Accord was off 9 percent, though Civic sales rose by 4 percent.

Nissan / Infiniti: Nissan says its April sales were up strongly over the same period a year ago. In the U.S., the company reported 87,847 sales, up 23.2 percent, with Nissan-brand vehicles accounting for 80,003 units, up 24.6 percent. Infiniti sales rose 10 percent to 7,844 vehicles. Nissan says it saw strong gains in retail sales for vehicles like its core Altima sedan; the Leaf electric car posted a 423.5-percent sales increase, to 1,937 units.


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