Market Overview

US Auto Sales Beat March Estimates

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US Auto Sales Beat March Estimates

Cox Automotive expected last month to have seen 2.6-percent year-over-year and 22-percent sequential pops in auto deliveries.

“March is the year’s first month that traditionally delivers high volumes and this March is no exception, with sales expected to increase nearly 300,000 units over February and more than 400,000 units above January,” Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist at Cox Automotive, said in a report.

The industry didn’t disappoint. Altogether, the five automakers listed on U.S. exchanges recorded a 27.7-percent quarter-over-quarter increase.

“Consumers are keeping the U.S. economy growing and auto sales very healthy,” GM’s chief economist Mustafa Mohatare said in a press release. “The job market is strong, consumer confidence is at decade-high levels and we see clear evidence that business owners are taking advantage of tax reform to upgrade their fleets.”

General Motors Company (NYSE: GM) led with 296,341 deliveries, Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) 244,306 vehicles, Toyota Motor Corp (ADR) (NYSE: TM) 222,782, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (NYSE: FCAU) 216,063 and Honda Motor Co Ltd (ADR) (NYSE: HMC) 142,392.

Their stocks were trading higher across the board Tuesday afternoon, led by FCA's 8 percent pop.

General Motors

Cox projected GM to lead the industry with 7.3-percent annual and 24.5-percent monthly rises. Sales actually peaked 16 percent year-over-year and 34 percent sequentially.

The beats were driven by Buick’s best March since 2004, Chevrolet’s best since 2007, Cadillac’s best since 2014 and GMC’s best ever.

Retail sales rose 14 percent annually, bringing the company to an estimated retail market share of 17.7, while commercial deliveries increased 19 percent. Crossovers popped 41 percent and pickups 19 percent.

Notably, GM said this was its last monthly sales report. Management will instead post figures quarterly to diminish the image of volatility caused by product launches, seasonal factors, incentive activity and the number of selling days each month.

“Thirty days is not enough time to separate real sales trends from short-term fluctuations in a very dynamic, highly competitive market,” Kurt McNeil, U.S. vice president of sales operations, said in a statement. “Reporting sales quarterly better aligns with our business, and the quality of information will make it easier to see how the business is performing.”

GM will release second-quarter sales July 3, third-quarter sales Oct. 2 and fourth-quarter sales Jan. 3.

Ford

Ford posted a 3.4-percent annual increase in March sales, with fleet rising 8.7 percent and retail 0.8 percent, to beat Cox’s 1.3-percent estimate. Trucks popped 6.7 percent and SUVs 7.5 percent, while cars slid 8.1 percent.

“The most impressive part of Ford’s story is its average transaction price of $36,300, which shows consumers are willing to pay for premium content,” Kelley Blue Book executive analyst Rebecca Lindland said in a release.

The company’s average transaction price rose $1,400 year-over-year.

Fiat Chrysler

FCA reported its best March retail sales in 17 years and total sales in 12 years. The former metric rose 11 percent year over year contributing to a 14-percent pop in the latter.

Cox had projected a mere 2.5-percent rise.

Jeep marked its best month ever on a 45-percent increase, and while Chrysler rose 15 percent, most other brands declined. Fiat fell 47 percent, Ram 13 percent and Dodge 2 percent.

The firm saw increased demand in utility vehicles, cars and multi-purpose vehicles, ultimately offsetting declines in trucks and light commercial vehicles.

Toyota

Against Cox projections of 2.2 percent, Toyota North America recorded a 3.5-percent year-over-year increase in March. Accounting for an extra sales day this year, however, the firm conceded a 0.2-percent decline in a daily selling rate (DSR).

The Toyota division posted a 0.8-percent DSR increase, while Lexus fell 6.7 percent. The month saw its best ever light truck sales across all divisions.

Honda

American Honda far exceeded expectations of a 0.2-percent decline and ultimately delivered a 3.8-percent increase on 0.4-percent and 7-percent rises in cars and trucks, respectively.

Honda brand set a new March record with a 2.6-percent increase, driven by jumps in truck sales, while Acura popped 15.7 percent.

Inventory Supply

GM’s dealer inventory declined 16,602 units to a 72-days supply, while Ford’s increased 1,596 to an 82-days supply.

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