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Major Automakers Report Higher Feb. U.S. Sales


Major automakers on Friday reported higher U.S. vehicles sales for the month of February amid strong demand for new fuel efficient vehicles, better financing opportunities and an improving housing market. Ford Motor Co. (F) led the list with a 9.3% year-over-year increase in February U.S. vehicles sales followed by General Motors Co. (GM) with a 7.2% growth, while Chrysler Group LLC and Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) each reported 4% gains.

GM, the largest U.S. automaker, said that its February U.S. sales rose 7.2% to 224,314 vehicles from 209,306 vehicles in the same month last year.

There were 24 selling days for February 2013, compared to 25 for last year.

"The year is off to a very good start for General Motors," said Kurt McNeil, vice president of U.S. sales operations. "There's a sense of optimism among our dealers that only comes when you pair a growing economy with great new products."

GM's retail sales and fleet sales were both up 7% for the month.

For February, GM's passenger car sales fell 4%, but truck sales rose 14% and crossovers sales surged 17% from a year earlier.

Among GM's brands, Chevrolet sales increased 4.9% to 158,541 units, while GMC sales rose 9.8% to 35,778 units, Cardillac sales surged 20.3% to 13,846 and Buick sales climbed 15.2% to 16,150 units. The Chevrolet Equinox , GMC Terrain and the redesigned Buick Enclave had their best-ever February sales, the automaker said.

"The housing sector has now joined auto sales in propelling the U.S. economy forward," said Kurt McNeil, vice president of GM's U.S. sales operations. "More importantly, the recovery in new home construction is reinforcing the underlying improvement in auto buying conditions, especially for pickups.

Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford, the second largest U.S. automaker, said it sold 195,822 vehicles in the U.S. in February, up 9.3% from 179,119 vehicles sold in the same month last year. This marks Ford's best February sales in six years. For January, Ford had reported a 22% rise in U.S. vehicles sales.

Ford's car sales grew 6.4% year-over-year to 70,647 units in February, while truck sales for the month increased 3.6% to 66,947 units and utility vehicle sales rose 21% to 58,228 units.

"As more new vehicle buyers continue returning to the marketplace, our fresh new product portfolio of fuel-efficient vehicles is winning over customers," said Ken Czubay, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service. "People are buying our all-new Fusion and Escape in record numbers, thanks to strong fuel economy and innovative new technologies."

February sales of Ford Fusion jumped 28% to 27,875 units, its best February sales ever.

Among utilities, Explorer sales surged 59% to 16,586 vehicles, while Escape sales rose 29.2% to 24,110 vehicles.

Sales of Ford's F-Series truck, America's best-selling truck for 36 years in a row and America's best-selling vehicle, car or truck, for 31 straight years, rose 15.3% to 54,489 units in February, its 19th straight month of sales increases.

Ford also said it plans to build 800,000 vehicles in North America in the second quarter, an increase of 9%, or 63,000 vehicles produced in the same quarter last year. The automaker left its first quarter North American production forecast unchanged at 770,000 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 fourteen quarters. The company has also reinstated its quarterly stock dividend. However, the automaker's profit has declined in the last three quarters due to weakness in Europe.

Chrysler Group LLC, majority-owned by Italian carmaker Fiat SpA (FIATY.PK), reported February U.S. sales of 139,015 units, a 4% increase compared with sales of 133,521 units in February last year.

This marks the 35th consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains for Chrysler.
Chrysler's car sales for the month rose 32% to 52,716 units, while total truck sales fell 8% to 86,299 units. Sales of the Fiat 500 were up 2 percent in February, a sales record for the month of February.

Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., a division of Toyota Motor Corp. (TM), reported February sales of 166,377 units, up 4% from a year earlier.

GM shares are currently trading at $27.36, up 21 cents, while Ford shares are currently trading at $12.70, up 9 cents.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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