Detroit's Big Three - General Motors Co. (GM), Ford Motor Co. (F) and Chrysler Group LLC - all reported higher U.S. vehicle sales for the month of February, helped by continued strong demand for smaller, fuel-efficient vehicles and an improving economy.
Chrysler continued its strong momentum with 40% growth, while Ford recorded 14.4% growth in U.S. vehicles sales. GM posted modest 1.1% growth as compared to strong sales in the prior year period.
GM, the largest U.S. automaker, said that its total vehicle sales in the United State grew 1.1% to 209,306 units in February from 207,028 units in the same month last year.
For February, total Chevrolet brand sales rose 5.8% to 151,197 units. Total GMC sales edged up 0.1% to 32,581 units in February, while total Buick sales fell 11.3% to 14,023 units and total Cadillac sales dipped 27% to 11,505 units.
"Chevrolet's 6 percent sales increase, which was driven by new models, as well as a stronger economy, helped GM exceed last February's remarkably strong result," said Don Johnson, vice president, U.S. Sales Operations.
"Industrywide, February light vehicle sales will top 1.1 million units, thanks to stronger employment and credit availability, an improving housing market and the recovery in consumer sentiment," he added.
Ford, the second largest U.S. Automaker, said that its February U.S. sale rose 14.4% from last year, as higher fuel prices driving consumer demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles in the second half of the month. The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker said it sold 179,119 vehicles in the U.S. in February, up from 156,628 vehicles sold in the same month last year. For January, Ford had reported a 7.4% increase in U.S. vehicles sales.
Ford's car sales rose 15.7% year-over-year to 66,368 units in February, while truck sales surged 20.6% to 64,635 units. Utility vehicle sales grew 5.4% to 48,116 units.
Sales of Ford brand vehicles increased 14.3% to 172,207 units, while sales of Lincoln brand vehicles rose 16.2% to 6,9012 units.
February sales of Ford's small car Focus jumped 114.6% to 23,350 vehicles, and contributed to 40% of the company's sales growth for the month, more than any other vehicle in the Ford product lineup.
Among the utilities, Ford Escape sales grew 3.7% to 18,666 units in February, while Ford Explorer sales rose 8.1% to 10.440 units.
Sales of Ford's F-Series truck, America's best-selling truck for 35 years in a row and America's best-selling vehicle, car or truck, for 30 straight years, jumped 25.9% to 47,273 units in February.
Additionally, Ford said it plans to build 730,000 vehicles in North America in the second quarter of 2012, an increase of 3% compared to the second quarter 2011. The automaker left its first quarter North American production forecast unchanged at 675,000 vehicles.
Ford was less ravaged by the recession than most of its peers. The company also did not have to restructure with federal assistance. The automaker has reported a profit for each of its last eleven quarters. The company has also reinstated its quarterly stock dividend.
Chrysler Group LLC, which is majority owned by Italy-based Fiat SpA (FIATY.PK), said its U.S. sales for the month of February rose 40% to 133,521 vehicles from 95,102 vehicles in the same month last year. The company has now reported 23 straight months of year-over-year sales gains.
In February, every Chrysler Group model in production for over 12 months posted a year-over-year sales gain and the Chrysler brand led the way with a solid 114 percent growth. The company said the FIAT brand finished its first year of sales with its best month ever, with Fiat 500 sales growing by 69 percent in February compared with the prior month.
Chrysler's total car sales for the month jumped 126% year-over-year to 40,024 units, while total truck sales increased 21% to 93,497 units.
Among other automakers reporting U.S. vehicle sales Thursday, Nissan North America Inc., a unit of Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (NSANY.PK), reported February U.S. sales of 106,731 units, up 15.5% from 92,370 units a year earlier. Total car sales grew 15.9% to 71,732 units, while total truck sales rose 14.8% to 34,999 units.
Nissan Division sales for the month increased 17.1% to 97,492 units, while Infiniti Division sales rose 1.0% to 9,239 units from 9,144 units.
GM shares are currently trading at $26.56, up 54 cents or 2.08%, while Ford shares are currently trading at $12.74, up 36 cents or 2.91%.
by RTT Staff Writer
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