This could be a shakeup month for vehicle sales in the U.S., with at least one firm saying Ford could outsell GM. Edmunds.com is predicting a 1.24 million unit month, a 16.5% increase from last March and a 25.1% increase from February this year. The firm predicts that unless GM managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat during the past week or Ford hit speed bumps because of inventory constraints due to supply shortfall from Japan, Ford may overtake GM in monthly sales for only the second time since 1998.
Edmunds.com analysts -- who predict that if March's rate of sales were extrapolated to the full year it would be 13.07 million units, down from 13.38 in February 2011 -- also assert that incentives are down in the U.S. to about $2,321 per vehicle sold this month. That would be $245 less than February, and $494 or 17.5% from March last year.
Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds.com's senior analyst, said GM had to pull back on incentives because the generous rates it had been offering pulled sales out of the future market. She said GM could "suffer a sales hangover through the next few months, given that the company's earlier offers have been quite generous and may have pulled ahead future sales [meaning GM's incentives may have pulled potential sales to be made in coming weeks and months into the current period.]"
On a corporate basis, according to Edmunds, Chrysler sales are likely to be up about 17% versus last year. Honda is looking at a 20% increase in unit sales; Nissan slightly less and Toyota a 6.7% decrease versus March last year. General Motors and Ford may see a 6.7% and 10.3% improvement in March versus the month last year, respectively.
The firm predicts that combined U.S. market share for Chrysler, Ford and General Motors (GM), the domestic nameplates, will be 42.8% for March -- down from 43.6% in March last year and 46.2% in February. While Edmunds.com sees a 210,400-unit month for Ford in March, up 34.4% from February, it says the Dearborn, Mich. company's market share will be 16.9% in March -- down from 17.2% last year. But Ford's share would also be up from 15.8% in February this year.
If so, Ford would slip ahead of the 16.8% of U.S. share Edmunds.com predicts for GM, down from 17.6% in March last year and 20.8% in February.
Ivan Drury, analyst at Edmunds.com, tells Marketing Daily that even though events in Japan have made supply of critical parts for hybrid and electric vehicles tighter, Ford is still likely to do well. "Seeing where gas prices are and given the awareness level for fuel efficient vehicles, Ford could take GM for the month."
He also said the Detroit automakers' collective share is turning around, even though Ford, GM and Chrysler's collective share is down a touch for the month. "If you compare market share now versus ten years ago, it's nothing but down -- but right about now we are seeing a leveling off, and now it's actually starting to go back upward."