Auto sales are continuing a march up from the vale of tears that was 2009. Prognosticators at market research and online shopping firm Edmunds.com are betting on 1.1 million units being delivered in March, which would be a 40% increase from the dreadful month last year and a 43.9% increase from last month.
If so, the month will represent an annual sales pace of 12.4 million units, up from 10.3 million in February. But before filling champagne flutes, one might consider that many of these sales reflect historically high incentive and leasing deals because Toyota is using heavy incentives for the first time to get people over their post-recall trepidation about Toyota vehicles, and competitors are having to pull out their purses and put cash on the hood as well.
Edmunds says Toyota is spending $2,242 on average per vehicle in March on incentives, up from $1,881 last month and $1,565 in March last year. General Motors is spending $3,497; Ford is spending $3,301 and Nissan spent $2,406 this month, per Edmunds.com.
But Edmunds.com CEO Jeremy Anwyl noted in a company report that incentives this month are "defensive moves" in response to Toyota's program, and are unlikely to last because inventories "are simply not high enough to justify them in the long term."
The company says more incentives and fewer sensational news items about Toyota's recall have helped push the automaker's sales up 80% since February. The firm says Toyota is on track to sell 182,100 new vehicles this month, up 37.1% from March 2009 and up 82% from February -- with market share at 16.3% for the month, up from 15.5% in March and 12.9% in February.
Meanwhile, per Edmunds, the domestics are looking at combined monthly U.S. market share of 44% for the month, down from 45.1% in March 2009 and down from 47.1%. Edmunds sees Chrysler selling 94,100 new vehicles this month, a 6.5% dip from last year -- although up 11.7% from last month, giving it 8.4% of the market this month, down from 11.8% in March 2009 and 10.8% in February.
But Ford continues to rise, and if Edmunds is correct, will have more market share than GM this month. The firm says Ford is on track to sell 201,100 units this month, up 55.5% compared to March 2009 and up 43.3% from February. That gives Ford market share of 18% in March, the same as last month and up from 15.1% for the month last year.
Another big gainer is Hyundai, which Edmunds.com predicts will sell 91,600 units this month, up 40% percent from last year and 57.8% from last month. This would give Hyundai 8.2% of the market in the U.S. this month, up from 7.7% in March and 7.5% in February.
General Motors, while seeing sales improvements this month, per Edmunds, will see market share drop. Edmunds sees GM sales up 27% versus last year and 39.3% from February, while that will give the company 17.6% of new vehicle sales down from 18.2% in March last year and 18.2% in February.