Sales numbers are in, and General Motors, Chrysler and Ford got a ride from cars, but also larger SUVs and trucks as gasoline prices have dropped a bit. And there were a lot of best-evers for the month: Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru and Volkswagen (okay, it was VW's best since '73, but the statute of limitations should have run out on that years ago) hit brand records.
Only Honda and Nissan, among the Big Eight, saw their numbers slip, although the numbers get fuzzy when you take the difference between the number of selling days last month versus last February.
Ford posted a 9% sales increase for the month to reach its best February in six years. Sales for cars were up by 6%, utilities up 21%, and trucks 4%. The company set records with the Fusion and the Escape compact SUV. Sales of the larger Explorer crossover were up 59% and F-Series sales were up 15%, the truck's best month since 2007.
General Motors posted gains for all four of its brands, with Cadillac getting the biggest numbers on a percentage basis, followed by Buick -- up 20% and 15%, respectively. In New York this month GM will unveil the new Cadillac CTS and Buick Regal and LaCrosse cars. Parenthetically, Shaquille O’Neal is starring in his second ad for the current model of the LaCrosse. The ad, called “More Than I Expected,” furthers the “You Don’t Know Buick” campaign the company launched last year with supermodel Marisa Miller.
The company said its GMC premium truck brand had a 10% increase in sales, while Chevrolet, by far GM's largest brand on U.S. and global volume, saw a 5% increase.
“The housing sector has now joined auto sales in propelling the U.S. economy forward,” said Kurt McNeil, vice president of U.S. sales operations. “More importantly, the recovery in new home construction is reinforcing the underlying improvement in auto buying conditions, especially for pickups.
Across town in Auburn, Chrysler Group posted a 4% increase versus last year, saying it was the company's best February sales since 2008. The company's Dodge division posted the largest division gain -- 30% -- than any other Chrysler Group brand. Sales of the Dodge Dart compact car gained 8% versus January, and the company said the Challenger set an all-time sales record with its 34% sales gain.
Toyota's eponymous division posted an 8.7% improvement, while the Lexus luxury division saw an 8.3% improvement. The redesigned Toyota Avalon posted its best month since November 2007, up 63.1%, while the RAV-4 compact SUV had its best February ever with sales up 5.1%.
American Honda reported a 2.0% drop compared with Feb. 2012. John Mendel, EVP of sales at American Honda said the Northeaster last month slowed sales, but the company still saw increases for the Accord.
Nissan North America, Inc., saw a 6.6% drop from last February, with Nissan division down 7.2%. Infiniti, in the process of brand reinvention, saw a 1% drop versus last February. The Nissan brand has seen some strong gains with redesigned vehicles like the Pathfinder SUV, which enjoyed a 145.6% boost, setting a new February record for the SUV, per the company.
Sales of the Versa sub-compact were up 28.6%, also setting a record for the month. The Leaf electric, which the company is now building in the new Smyrna factory in Tennessee, saw a 36.6% lift, albeit from very low numbers. The company reports selling 653 of them last month.
Volkswagen's sales rose 2.9% versus last year. The company, whose head of marketing Tim Mahoney decamped to Chevrolet last month, reported that February marked the 30th month of consecutive sales growth, and, as mentioned, that last month was its best February since 1973.