Toyota Posts February Sales Increases, GM, Ford, FCA Fall Short

With just one automaker reporting an annual increase in February sales, 2018 is looking bleaker for the auto industry. But that’s not unexpected.

“This year is going to be a bitter but necessary pill for the auto industry to swallow,” Jessica Caldwell, Edmunds' executive director of industry analysis, said in a press release. “Automakers are slowing production of passenger cars to react to declining demand and are also trying to find the right balance between keeping sales strong and becoming too dependent on costly incentives.”

The results suggest a deceptively poor pulse.

“The industry is still in a fairly healthy place, but it may not feel like it since the last few years have been in record territory,” Caldwell said.

This Month’s Rankings

Two of the Big Three led U.S. sales this month, with one foreign manufacturer rounding out the top rankings.

General Motors Company GM sold 220,905 vehicles, followed by Ford Motor Company F (194,132), Toyota Motor Corp (ADR) TM North America (182,195), Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV FCAU (165,903) and Honda Motor Co Ltd (ADR) HMC (115,557).

Only Toyota recorded a year-over-year increase.

GM Misses The Mark

General Motors posted a 6.9-percent year-over-year sales decrease against a 5.2-percent Cox Automotive estimate. Retail sales fell 10 percent from 2017’s record crossover, SUV and pickup sales.

Chevrolet dropped 8.8 percent and GMC 8 percent, while Cadillac increased 14 percent and Buick 1.2 percent.

Fortunately, fleet sales rose 7 percent on a 15-percent increase in commercial deliveries, and the firm posted a $500-plus decrease in incentive spending against an average industry decrease of $64.

“Consumer confidence is at its highest level since 2000, the economy is strong, our newest products are selling very well and we have successfully managed the transition to the 2018 model year far better than most of our competitors,” Kurt McNeil, U.S. vice president of sales operations, said in a press release. “Customer demand, GM’s new products and upcoming launches are in perfect tune.”

The coming month will be marked by five new vehicle unveilings across brands.

Ford Fumbles

Ford sales dropped 6.9 percent over the last year against a 6-percent estimate from Cox.

The retail segment fell 8.5 percent and fleet 3.8 percent; the Ford brand fell 6.1 percent and Lincoln 23.4 percent; SUVs slipped 12.3 percent and cars 12.1 percent. The truck segment, alone, improved with a 1.2-percent pop.

On a positive note, though, the blue oval registered average transaction prices of $36,000 against the industry’s $32,000.

“With the highest transaction pricing of any full-line automaker, Ford posted an increase of $2,100, with incentive spend down $80 compared to a year ago,” according to the press release.

Fiat Chrysler Freezes

FCA reported a 1-percent annual decrease in February sales against a Cox estimate of 7.9 percent. The beat was led by Jeep, which boasted its best-ever February retail sales and a 12-percent year-over-year pop.

Fiat sales fell 42 percent, Ram 14 percent, Dodge 8 percent and Chrysler 3 percent. The firm continued its fleet paring with a 3-percent reduction.

Toyota Tops Peers

With best-ever sales in light trucks and Lexus luxury utility vehicles, Toyota North America grew sales 4.5 percent year-over-year against Cox expectations of a 2.5-percent drop. Sales for the Toyota division popped 4.4 percent and Lexus 5.1 percent.

“We've now launched our all-new fifth-generation LS and LS hybrid sedans, so we expect a very strong first quarter,” Jeff Bracken, group vice president and general manager of the Lexus division, said in a press release. “These new models will be followed by 10 additional new or updated models, so we're very optimistic about the year ahead."

Notably, Toyota caught an upgrade from Bank of America ahead of its report.

Honda Resists Van Declines

American Honda missed Cox’s estimate for a 0.6-percent decrease and instead posted a 5-percent dip. A 1-percent gain in Acura offset a 5.6-percent decline in the Honda division.

Car sales fell 5.5 percent and trucks 4.6 percent, but Honda Odyssey minivans defied industry trends with a 3.4-percent pop.

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Posted In: EdmundsJessica CaldwellLong IdeasNewsTrading Ideas