AM 720 KDWN
News, Traffic, Weather

March will be test of US auto demand

KDWN

DETROIT (AP) — March will be one of the most crucial months for the U.S. auto industry in years.

Sales were slower than expected In January and February, and the number of unsold cars on dealer lots grew. Some automakers had to resort to juicy discounts to lure reluctant buyers.

Most industry executives, dealers and analysts blame the historic cold temperatures and snowfall and expect warmer weather to restore consumers’ enthusiasm for car buying. Most still expect annual sales to exceed 16.1 million, which would be the highest level since 2006.

But a continuation of the trends could signal more fundamental reasons for sagging demand. For instance, consumer confidence fell slightly last month, according to the Conference Board. That hurts car sales, since buyers need to be confident before they invest in a car.

More broadly, another few months of lackluster numbers could mean that U.S. sales have peaked and may not return to the 16 million to 17 million range that was commonplace last decade, before the financial crisis.

“March will give us a sense of how real the recovery is going to be this year,” said Alec Gutierrez, a senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book.

U.S. consumers bought just under 1.2 million new cars and trucks in February, unchanged from a year ago. That follows a 3 percent drop in January – the first year-over-year decline since August 2010.

So far this year, new vehicle sales have been on pace to hit a little more than 15 million for the year. Last year, the industry sold 15.6 million cars and trucks.

Gutierrez believes sales will recover and hit 16.3 million this year. Pent-up demand from the snowy winter will help, he says, along with low interest rates, attractive lease deals and strong new competitors like the Subaru Forester and Jeep Cherokee.

“We think there is still plenty of time left this year for sales to rebound and kind of get us back on that pace,” he said.

But if the sales pace is less than 16 million to 16.1 million in March and even April – and cold weather is no longer a factor – the industry might have to downgrade its expectations for the year, he said.

General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and Volkswagen all reported sales declines in February. GM and Ford said the month started slowly but sales began to recover in the second half. If that momentum continues into March, fears of a broader sales slowdown may prove to be unfounded.

“We expect, heading into the month of March, a very solid spring market,” said John Felice, Ford’s U.S. sales chief.

Some automakers bucked the trend. Subaru’s February sales jumped 24 percent thanks to strong sales of its new SUVs, the Forester and Crosstrek. Chrysler and Nissan also reported double-digit gains, but discounted some key models to get there.

Slow sales caused dealer inventories to rise in January and February, putting pressure on companies to clear their lots. Larry Dominique, executive vice president of auto buying site TrueCar.com, says there is now an 85-day supply of vehicles in the U.S. A 60-day supply is more typical.

Automakers are offering more discounts. Incentives are at a three-year high, averaging $2,633 per vehicle in February, up more than 5 percent from a year ago, according to TrueCar. That’s good for consumers but expensive for automakers.

Dominique said automakers may feel pressure to continue high incentives in March, but that’s dangerous, since consumers could get accustomed to the discounts.

“If you’re starting to pour the juice on in March of this year, it really makes it hard to get off that juice the rest of the year,” Dominique said.

As for individual automakers’ sales in February:

- GM sales fell 1 percent. Buick sales jumped 19 percent but GM’s other brands were down.

- Ford’s sales fell 6 percent. F-Series pickup truck sales were up 3 percent, but Ford’s car sales dropped by 14 percent.

- Toyota sales fell 4 percent. The luxury Lexus brand gained 9 percent thanks to new vehicles, but the Toyota brand struggled. Sales of the Toyota Prius hybrid plunged 28 percent.

- Nissan’s sales rose almost 16 percent, led by the new Rogue crossover. But Nissan’s average sales price fell almost 4 percent – more than $1,000 – compared with a year ago, according to TrueCar. Nissan’s U.S. sales chief, Fred Diaz, said last week that the company had to lower prices on many models last year after they got too high to be competitive.

- Chrysler sales rose 11 percent. It boosted discounts on the Ram pickup to an average of just under $5,000 per truck, or $1,000 more than competitors from Ford and GM, according to data collected by J.D. Power and Associates.

The Associated Press got the J.D. Power data from a person who asked not to be identified because the numbers aren’t typically released to the public.

March will be test of US auto demand

KDWN

DETROIT (AP) — March will be one of the most crucial months for the U.S. auto industry in years.

Sales were slower than expected In January and February, and the number of unsold cars on dealer lots grew. Some automakers had to resort to juicy discounts to lure reluctant buyers.

Most industry executives, dealers and analysts blame the historic cold temperatures and snowfall and expect warmer weather to restore consumers’ enthusiasm for car buying. Most still expect annual sales to exceed 16.1 million, which would be the highest level since 2006.

But a continuation of the trends could signal more fundamental reasons for sagging demand. For instance, consumer confidence fell slightly last month, according to the Conference Board. That hurts car sales, since buyers need to be confident before they invest in a car.

More broadly, another few months of lackluster numbers could mean that U.S. sales have peaked and may not return to the 16 million to 17 million range that was commonplace last decade, before the financial crisis.

“March will give us a sense of how real the recovery is going to be this year,” said Alec Gutierrez, a senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book.

U.S. consumers bought just under 1.2 million new cars and trucks in February, unchanged from a year ago. That follows a 3 percent drop in January – the first year-over-year decline since August 2010.

So far this year, new vehicle sales have been on pace to hit a little more than 15 million for the year. Last year, the industry sold 15.6 million cars and trucks.

Gutierrez believes sales will recover and hit 16.3 million this year. Pent-up demand from the snowy winter will help, he says, along with low interest rates, attractive lease deals and strong new competitors like the Subaru Forester and Jeep Cherokee.

“We think there is still plenty of time left this year for sales to rebound and kind of get us back on that pace,” he said.

But if the sales pace is less than 16 million to 16.1 million in March and even April – and cold weather is no longer a factor – the industry might have to downgrade its expectations for the year, he said.

General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and Volkswagen all reported sales declines in February. GM and Ford said the month started slowly but sales began to recover in the second half. If that momentum continues into March, fears of a broader sales slowdown may prove to be unfounded.

“We expect, heading into the month of March, a very solid spring market,” said John Felice, Ford’s U.S. sales chief.

Some automakers bucked the trend. Subaru’s February sales jumped 24 percent thanks to strong sales of its new SUVs, the Forester and Crosstrek. Chrysler and Nissan also reported double-digit gains, but discounted some key models to get there.

Slow sales caused dealer inventories to rise in January and February, putting pressure on companies to clear their lots. Larry Dominique, executive vice president of auto buying site TrueCar.com, says there is now an 85-day supply of vehicles in the U.S. A 60-day supply is more typical.

Automakers are offering more discounts. Incentives are at a three-year high, averaging $2,633 per vehicle in February, up more than 5 percent from a year ago, according to TrueCar. That’s good for consumers but expensive for automakers.

Dominique said automakers may feel pressure to continue high incentives in March, but that’s dangerous, since consumers could get accustomed to the discounts.

“If you’re starting to pour the juice on in March of this year, it really makes it hard to get off that juice the rest of the year,” Dominique said.

As for individual automakers’ sales in February:

- GM sales fell 1 percent. Buick sales jumped 19 percent but GM’s other brands were down.

- Ford’s sales fell 6 percent. F-Series pickup truck sales were up 3 percent, but Ford’s car sales dropped by 14 percent.

- Toyota sales fell 4 percent. The luxury Lexus brand gained 9 percent thanks to new vehicles, but the Toyota brand struggled. Sales of the Toyota Prius hybrid plunged 28 percent.

- Nissan’s sales rose almost 16 percent, led by the new Rogue crossover. But Nissan’s average sales price fell almost 4 percent – more than $1,000 – compared with a year ago, according to TrueCar. Nissan’s U.S. sales chief, Fred Diaz, said last week that the company had to lower prices on many models last year after they got too high to be competitive.

- Chrysler sales rose 11 percent. It boosted discounts on the Ram pickup to an average of just under $5,000 per truck, or $1,000 more than competitors from Ford and GM, according to data collected by J.D. Power and Associates.

The Associated Press got the J.D. Power data from a person who asked not to be identified because the numbers aren’t typically released to the public.

March will be test of US auto demand

KDWN

DETROIT (AP) — March will be one of the most crucial months for the U.S. auto industry in years.

Sales were slower than expected In January and February, and the number of unsold cars on dealer lots grew. Some automakers had to resort to juicy discounts to lure reluctant buyers.

Most industry executives, dealers and analysts blame the historic cold temperatures and snowfall and expect warmer weather to restore consumers’ enthusiasm for car buying. Most still expect annual sales to exceed 16.1 million, which would be the highest level since 2006.

But a continuation of the trends could signal more fundamental reasons for sagging demand. For instance, consumer confidence fell slightly last month, according to the Conference Board. That hurts car sales, since buyers need to be confident before they invest in a car.

More broadly, another few months of lackluster numbers could mean that U.S. sales have peaked and may not return to the 16 million to 17 million range that was commonplace last decade, before the financial crisis.

“March will give us a sense of how real the recovery is going to be this year,” said Alec Gutierrez, a senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book.

U.S. consumers bought just under 1.2 million new cars and trucks in February, unchanged from a year ago. That follows a 3 percent drop in January – the first year-over-year decline since August 2010.

So far this year, new vehicle sales have been on pace to hit a little more than 15 million for the year. Last year, the industry sold 15.6 million cars and trucks.

Gutierrez believes sales will recover and hit 16.3 million this year. Pent-up demand from the snowy winter will help, he says, along with low interest rates, attractive lease deals and strong new competitors like the Subaru Forester and Jeep Cherokee.

“We think there is still plenty of time left this year for sales to rebound and kind of get us back on that pace,” he said.

But if the sales pace is less than 16 million to 16.1 million in March and even April – and cold weather is no longer a factor – the industry might have to downgrade its expectations for the year, he said.

General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and Volkswagen all reported sales declines in February. GM and Ford said the month started slowly but sales began to recover in the second half. If that momentum continues into March, fears of a broader sales slowdown may prove to be unfounded.

“We expect, heading into the month of March, a very solid spring market,” said John Felice, Ford’s U.S. sales chief.

Some automakers bucked the trend. Subaru’s February sales jumped 24 percent thanks to strong sales of its new SUVs, the Forester and Crosstrek. Chrysler and Nissan also reported double-digit gains, but discounted some key models to get there.

Slow sales caused dealer inventories to rise in January and February, putting pressure on companies to clear their lots. Larry Dominique, executive vice president of auto buying site TrueCar.com, says there is now an 85-day supply of vehicles in the U.S. A 60-day supply is more typical.

Automakers are offering more discounts. Incentives are at a three-year high, averaging $2,633 per vehicle in February, up more than 5 percent from a year ago, according to TrueCar. That’s good for consumers but expensive for automakers.

Dominique said automakers may feel pressure to continue high incentives in March, but that’s dangerous, since consumers could get accustomed to the discounts.

“If you’re starting to pour the juice on in March of this year, it really makes it hard to get off that juice the rest of the year,” Dominique said.

As for individual automakers’ sales in February:

- GM sales fell 1 percent. Buick sales jumped 19 percent but GM’s other brands were down.

- Ford’s sales fell 6 percent. F-Series pickup truck sales were up 3 percent, but Ford’s car sales dropped by 14 percent.

- Toyota sales fell 4 percent. The luxury Lexus brand gained 9 percent thanks to new vehicles, but the Toyota brand struggled. Sales of the Toyota Prius hybrid plunged 28 percent.

- Nissan’s sales rose almost 16 percent, led by the new Rogue crossover. But Nissan’s average sales price fell almost 4 percent – more than $1,000 – compared with a year ago, according to TrueCar. Nissan’s U.S. sales chief, Fred Diaz, said last week that the company had to lower prices on many models last year after they got too high to be competitive.

- Chrysler sales rose 11 percent. It boosted discounts on the Ram pickup to an average of just under $5,000 per truck, or $1,000 more than competitors from Ford and GM, according to data collected by J.D. Power and Associates.

The Associated Press got the J.D. Power data from a person who asked not to be identified because the numbers aren’t typically released to the public.

March will be test of US auto demand

KDWN

DETROIT (AP) — March will be one of the most crucial months for the U.S. auto industry in years.

Sales were slower than expected In January and February, and the number of unsold cars on dealer lots grew. Some automakers had to resort to juicy discounts to lure reluctant buyers.

Most industry executives, dealers and analysts blame the historic cold temperatures and snowfall and expect warmer weather to restore consumers’ enthusiasm for car buying. Most still expect annual sales to exceed 16.1 million, which would be the highest level since 2006.

But a continuation of the trends could signal more fundamental reasons for sagging demand. For instance, consumer confidence fell slightly last month, according to the Conference Board. That hurts car sales, since buyers need to be confident before they invest in a car.

More broadly, another few months of lackluster numbers could mean that U.S. sales have peaked and may not return to the 16 million to 17 million range that was commonplace last decade, before the financial crisis.

“March will give us a sense of how real the recovery is going to be this year,” said Alec Gutierrez, a senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book.

U.S. consumers bought just under 1.2 million new cars and trucks in February, unchanged from a year ago. That follows a 3 percent drop in January – the first year-over-year decline since August 2010.

So far this year, new vehicle sales have been on pace to hit a little more than 15 million for the year. Last year, the industry sold 15.6 million cars and trucks.

Gutierrez believes sales will recover and hit 16.3 million this year. Pent-up demand from the snowy winter will help, he says, along with low interest rates, attractive lease deals and strong new competitors like the Subaru Forester and Jeep Cherokee.

“We think there is still plenty of time left this year for sales to rebound and kind of get us back on that pace,” he said.

But if the sales pace is less than 16 million to 16.1 million in March and even April – and cold weather is no longer a factor – the industry might have to downgrade its expectations for the year, he said.

General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and Volkswagen all reported sales declines in February. GM and Ford said the month started slowly but sales began to recover in the second half. If that momentum continues into March, fears of a broader sales slowdown may prove to be unfounded.

“We expect, heading into the month of March, a very solid spring market,” said John Felice, Ford’s U.S. sales chief.

Some automakers bucked the trend. Subaru’s February sales jumped 24 percent thanks to strong sales of its new SUVs, the Forester and Crosstrek. Chrysler and Nissan also reported double-digit gains, but discounted some key models to get there.

Slow sales caused dealer inventories to rise in January and February, putting pressure on companies to clear their lots. Larry Dominique, executive vice president of auto buying site TrueCar.com, says there is now an 85-day supply of vehicles in the U.S. A 60-day supply is more typical.

Automakers are offering more discounts. Incentives are at a three-year high, averaging $2,633 per vehicle in February, up more than 5 percent from a year ago, according to TrueCar. That’s good for consumers but expensive for automakers.

Dominique said automakers may feel pressure to continue high incentives in March, but that’s dangerous, since consumers could get accustomed to the discounts.

“If you’re starting to pour the juice on in March of this year, it really makes it hard to get off that juice the rest of the year,” Dominique said.

As for individual automakers’ sales in February:

- GM sales fell 1 percent. Buick sales jumped 19 percent but GM’s other brands were down.

- Ford’s sales fell 6 percent. F-Series pickup truck sales were up 3 percent, but Ford’s car sales dropped by 14 percent.

- Toyota sales fell 4 percent. The luxury Lexus brand gained 9 percent thanks to new vehicles, but the Toyota brand struggled. Sales of the Toyota Prius hybrid plunged 28 percent.

- Nissan’s sales rose almost 16 percent, led by the new Rogue crossover. But Nissan’s average sales price fell almost 4 percent – more than $1,000 – compared with a year ago, according to TrueCar. Nissan’s U.S. sales chief, Fred Diaz, said last week that the company had to lower prices on many models last year after they got too high to be competitive.

- Chrysler sales rose 11 percent. It boosted discounts on the Ram pickup to an average of just under $5,000 per truck, or $1,000 more than competitors from Ford and GM, according to data collected by J.D. Power and Associates.

The Associated Press got the J.D. Power data from a person who asked not to be identified because the numbers aren’t typically released to the public.

March will be test of US auto demand

KDWN

DETROIT (AP) — March will be one of the most crucial months for the U.S. auto industry in years.

Sales were slower than expected In January and February, and the number of unsold cars on dealer lots grew. Some automakers had to resort to juicy discounts to lure reluctant buyers.

Most industry executives, dealers and analysts blame the historic cold temperatures and snowfall and expect warmer weather to restore consumers’ enthusiasm for car buying. Most still expect annual sales to exceed 16.1 million, which would be the highest level since 2006.

But a continuation of the trends could signal more fundamental reasons for sagging demand. For instance, consumer confidence fell slightly last month, according to the Conference Board. That hurts car sales, since buyers need to be confident before they invest in a car.

More broadly, another few months of lackluster numbers could mean that U.S. sales have peaked and may not return to the 16 million to 17 million range that was commonplace last decade, before the financial crisis.

“March will give us a sense of how real the recovery is going to be this year,” said Alec Gutierrez, a senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book.

U.S. consumers bought just under 1.2 million new cars and trucks in February, unchanged from a year ago. That follows a 3 percent drop in January – the first year-over-year decline since August 2010.

So far this year, new vehicle sales have been on pace to hit a little more than 15 million for the year. Last year, the industry sold 15.6 million cars and trucks.

Gutierrez believes sales will recover and hit 16.3 million this year. Pent-up demand from the snowy winter will help, he says, along with low interest rates, attractive lease deals and strong new competitors like the Subaru Forester and Jeep Cherokee.

“We think there is still plenty of time left this year for sales to rebound and kind of get us back on that pace,” he said.

But if the sales pace is less than 16 million to 16.1 million in March and even April – and cold weather is no longer a factor – the industry might have to downgrade its expectations for the year, he said.

General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and Volkswagen all reported sales declines in February. GM and Ford said the month started slowly but sales began to recover in the second half. If that momentum continues into March, fears of a broader sales slowdown may prove to be unfounded.

“We expect, heading into the month of March, a very solid spring market,” said John Felice, Ford’s U.S. sales chief.

Some automakers bucked the trend. Subaru’s February sales jumped 24 percent thanks to strong sales of its new SUVs, the Forester and Crosstrek. Chrysler and Nissan also reported double-digit gains, but discounted some key models to get there.

Slow sales caused dealer inventories to rise in January and February, putting pressure on companies to clear their lots. Larry Dominique, executive vice president of auto buying site TrueCar.com, says there is now an 85-day supply of vehicles in the U.S. A 60-day supply is more typical.

Automakers are offering more discounts. Incentives are at a three-year high, averaging $2,633 per vehicle in February, up more than 5 percent from a year ago, according to TrueCar. That’s good for consumers but expensive for automakers.

Dominique said automakers may feel pressure to continue high incentives in March, but that’s dangerous, since consumers could get accustomed to the discounts.

“If you’re starting to pour the juice on in March of this year, it really makes it hard to get off that juice the rest of the year,” Dominique said.

As for individual automakers’ sales in February:

- GM sales fell 1 percent. Buick sales jumped 19 percent but GM’s other brands were down.

- Ford’s sales fell 6 percent. F-Series pickup truck sales were up 3 percent, but Ford’s car sales dropped by 14 percent.

- Toyota sales fell 4 percent. The luxury Lexus brand gained 9 percent thanks to new vehicles, but the Toyota brand struggled. Sales of the Toyota Prius hybrid plunged 28 percent.

- Nissan’s sales rose almost 16 percent, led by the new Rogue crossover. But Nissan’s average sales price fell almost 4 percent – more than $1,000 – compared with a year ago, according to TrueCar. Nissan’s U.S. sales chief, Fred Diaz, said last week that the company had to lower prices on many models last year after they got too high to be competitive.

- Chrysler sales rose 11 percent. It boosted discounts on the Ram pickup to an average of just under $5,000 per truck, or $1,000 more than competitors from Ford and GM, according to data collected by J.D. Power and Associates.

The Associated Press got the J.D. Power data from a person who asked not to be identified because the numbers aren’t typically released to the public.

March will be test of US auto demand

KDWN

DETROIT (AP) — March will be one of the most crucial months for the U.S. auto industry in years.

Sales were slower than expected In January and February, and the number of unsold cars on dealer lots grew. Some automakers had to resort to juicy discounts to lure reluctant buyers.

Most industry executives, dealers and analysts blame the historic cold temperatures and snowfall and expect warmer weather to restore consumers’ enthusiasm for car buying. Most still expect annual sales to exceed 16.1 million, which would be the highest level since 2006.

But a continuation of the trends could signal more fundamental reasons for sagging demand. For instance, consumer confidence fell slightly last month, according to the Conference Board. That hurts car sales, since buyers need to be confident before they invest in a car.

More broadly, another few months of lackluster numbers could mean that U.S. sales have peaked and may not return to the 16 million to 17 million range that was commonplace last decade, before the financial crisis.

“March will give us a sense of how real the recovery is going to be this year,” said Alec Gutierrez, a senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book.

U.S. consumers bought just under 1.2 million new cars and trucks in February, unchanged from a year ago. That follows a 3 percent drop in January – the first year-over-year decline since August 2010.

So far this year, new vehicle sales have been on pace to hit a little more than 15 million for the year. Last year, the industry sold 15.6 million cars and trucks.

Gutierrez believes sales will recover and hit 16.3 million this year. Pent-up demand from the snowy winter will help, he says, along with low interest rates, attractive lease deals and strong new competitors like the Subaru Forester and Jeep Cherokee.

“We think there is still plenty of time left this year for sales to rebound and kind of get us back on that pace,” he said.

But if the sales pace is less than 16 million to 16.1 million in March and even April – and cold weather is no longer a factor – the industry might have to downgrade its expectations for the year, he said.

General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai and Volkswagen all reported sales declines in February. GM and Ford said the month started slowly but sales began to recover in the second half. If that momentum continues into March, fears of a broader sales slowdown may prove to be unfounded.

“We expect, heading into the month of March, a very solid spring market,” said John Felice, Ford’s U.S. sales chief.

Some automakers bucked the trend. Subaru’s February sales jumped 24 percent thanks to strong sales of its new SUVs, the Forester and Crosstrek. Chrysler and Nissan also reported double-digit gains, but discounted some key models to get there.

Slow sales caused dealer inventories to rise in January and February, putting pressure on companies to clear their lots. Larry Dominique, executive vice president of auto buying site TrueCar.com, says there is now an 85-day supply of vehicles in the U.S. A 60-day supply is more typical.

Automakers are offering more discounts. Incentives are at a three-year high, averaging $2,633 per vehicle in February, up more than 5 percent from a year ago, according to TrueCar. That’s good for consumers but expensive for automakers.

Dominique said automakers may feel pressure to continue high incentives in March, but that’s dangerous, since consumers could get accustomed to the discounts.

“If you’re starting to pour the juice on in March of this year, it really makes it hard to get off that juice the rest of the year,” Dominique said.

As for individual automakers’ sales in February:

- GM sales fell 1 percent. Buick sales jumped 19 percent but GM’s other brands were down.

- Ford’s sales fell 6 percent. F-Series pickup truck sales were up 3 percent, but Ford’s car sales dropped by 14 percent.

- Toyota sales fell 4 percent. The luxury Lexus brand gained 9 percent thanks to new vehicles, but the Toyota brand struggled. Sales of the Toyota Prius hybrid plunged 28 percent.

- Nissan’s sales rose almost 16 percent, led by the new Rogue crossover. But Nissan’s average sales price fell almost 4 percent – more than $1,000 – compared with a year ago, according to TrueCar. Nissan’s U.S. sales chief, Fred Diaz, said last week that the company had to lower prices on many models last year after they got too high to be competitive.

- Chrysler sales rose 11 percent. It boosted discounts on the Ram pickup to an average of just under $5,000 per truck, or $1,000 more than competitors from Ford and GM, according to data collected by J.D. Power and Associates.

The Associated Press got the J.D. Power data from a person who asked not to be identified because the numbers aren’t typically released to the public.

March will be test of US auto demand

KDWN

DETROIT (AP) — March is the month to watch for the U.S. auto industry.

Sales have been slower than expected so far this year. As the spring thaw begins, automakers will see if the slowdown was due to historic cold temperatures and snowfall – as many believe – or if there are deeper reasons for sagging demand.

“March will give us a sense of how real the recovery is going to be this year,” said Alec Gutierrez, a senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book.

Automakers entered 2014 expecting to sell more than 16 million cars and trucks for the first time since the recession. But so far, sales are on pace to hit around 15 million, which would be 600,000 less than last year. But Gutierrez believes sales will recover reach 16.3 million for the year. The industry sold 16.1 million vehicles in 2007.

“We think there is still plenty of time left this year for sales to rebound and kind of get us back on that pace,” he said.

On Monday, General Motors, Ford and Toyota all reported U.S. sales declines for February. The country’s top three automakers by sales said the month started slowly but sales began to recover in the second half. If that momentum continues into March, fears of a broader sales slowdown may prove to be unfounded.

Industry analysts expect overall sales to rise about 1 percent for the month, a slow pace compared with the 8 percent increase for all of last year.

Dealer inventories, especially for the Detroit automakers, have hit their highest level in five years, putting pressure on companies to clear their lots. At the end of January, dealers had an 89-day supply of cars and trucks, according to Ward’s AutoInfoBank. Detroit automakers had the most, with General Motors at 114 days, followed by Ford at 107 and Chrysler at 105. A 60-day supply of vehicles is considered ideal.

Chrysler and Nissan were able to notch double-digit gains, but discounted some key models to get there. That points to another potential problem if automakers have to offer steeper discounts to shrink their inventories.

For consumers, it means deals. Incentives are the highest they’ve been in three years, averaging $2,633 per vehicle in February, up more than 5 percent from a year ago, according to TrueCar.com, a car buying site.

Larry Dominique, executive vice president of TrueCar, said automaker spending on discounts is growing faster than average sales prices, but he predicted that the bargains will wane as the weather gets warmer and customers go shopping again.

“We expect a return to balance once the winter subsides and inventories ease,” he said.

GM sold just over 222,000 cars and trucks in February, led by the Chevrolet Cruze compact car, with sales up almost 22 percent. But sales of the Chevy Silverado pickup, GM’s top-selling vehicle, fell 12 percent for the month. GM’s overall sales fell 1 percent.

Ford’s sales fell 6 percent to 184,000 vehicles. Sales of the F-Series pickup, its top-selling vehicle, rose just under 3 percent.

Toyota sales fell 4 percent to just over 159,000 cars and trucks.

Volkswagen, which has been struggling in the U.S., reported a 14 percent drop.

Nissan’s sales were up almost 16 percent to just over 115,000, led by the new Rogue crossover. Nissan’s average sales price fell almost 4 percent – more than $1,000 – compared with a year ago, according to TrueCar.

Chrysler sales rose 11 percent to nearly 155,000. While Chrysler’s average sale price was up 6 percent, it boosted discounts on the Ram pickup, its most popular model, by $593 compared with a year ago, according to data collected by J.D. Power and Associates.

The Ram discounts averaged just under $5,000. Ford and General Motors, its main competitors, offered around $4,000 per truck.

The Associated Press got the J.D. Power data from a person who asked not to be identified because the numbers aren’t typically released to the public.

March will be test of US auto demand

KDWN

DETROIT (AP) — March is the month to watch for the U.S. auto industry.

Sales have been slower than expected so far this year. As the spring thaw begins, automakers will see if the slowdown was due to historic cold temperatures and snowfall – as many believe – or if there are deeper reasons for sagging demand.

“March will give us a sense of how real the recovery is going to be this year,” said Alec Gutierrez, a senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book.

Automakers entered 2014 expecting to sell more than 16 million cars and trucks for the first time since the recession. But so far, sales are on pace to hit around 15 million, which would be 600,000 less than last year. But Gutierrez believes sales will recover reach 16.3 million for the year. The industry sold 16.1 million vehicles in 2007.

“We think there is still plenty of time left this year for sales to rebound and kind of get us back on that pace,” he said.

On Monday, General Motors, Ford and Toyota all reported U.S. sales declines for February. The country’s top three automakers by sales said the month started slowly but sales began to recover in the second half. If that momentum continues into March, fears of a broader sales slowdown may prove to be unfounded.

Industry analysts expect overall sales to rise about 1 percent for the month, a slow pace compared with the 8 percent increase for all of last year.

Dealer inventories, especially for the Detroit automakers, have hit their highest level in five years, putting pressure on companies to clear their lots. At the end of January, dealers had an 89-day supply of cars and trucks, according to Ward’s AutoInfoBank. Detroit automakers had the most, with General Motors at 114 days, followed by Ford at 107 and Chrysler at 105. A 60-day supply of vehicles is considered ideal.

Chrysler and Nissan were able to notch double-digit gains, but discounted some key models to get there. That points to another potential problem if automakers have to offer steeper discounts to shrink their inventories.

For consumers, it means deals. Incentives are the highest they’ve been in three years, averaging $2,633 per vehicle in February, up more than 5 percent from a year ago, according to TrueCar.com, a car buying site.

Larry Dominique, executive vice president of TrueCar, said automaker spending on discounts is growing faster than average sales prices, but he predicted that the bargains will wane as the weather gets warmer and customers go shopping again.

“We expect a return to balance once the winter subsides and inventories ease,” he said.

GM sold just over 222,000 cars and trucks in February, led by the Chevrolet Cruze compact car, with sales up almost 22 percent. But sales of the Chevy Silverado pickup, GM’s top-selling vehicle, fell 12 percent for the month. GM’s overall sales fell 1 percent.

Ford’s sales fell 6 percent to 184,000 vehicles. Sales of the F-Series pickup, its top-selling vehicle, rose just under 3 percent.

Toyota sales fell 4 percent to just over 159,000 cars and trucks.

Volkswagen, which has been struggling in the U.S., reported a 14 percent drop.

Nissan’s sales were up almost 16 percent to just over 115,000, led by the new Rogue crossover. Nissan’s average sales price fell almost 4 percent – more than $1,000 – compared with a year ago, according to TrueCar.

Chrysler sales rose 11 percent to nearly 155,000. While Chrysler’s average sale price was up 6 percent, it boosted discounts on the Ram pickup, its most popular model, by $593 compared with a year ago, according to data collected by J.D. Power and Associates.

The Ram discounts averaged just under $5,000. Ford and General Motors, its main competitors, offered around $4,000 per truck.

The Associated Press got the J.D. Power data from a person who asked not to be identified because the numbers aren’t typically released to the public.

March will be test of US auto demand

KDWN

DETROIT (AP) — March is the month to watch for the U.S. auto industry.

Sales have been slower than expected so far this year. As the spring thaw begins, automakers will see if the slowdown was due to historic cold temperatures and snowfall – as many believe – or if there are deeper reasons for sagging demand.

“March will give us a sense of how real the recovery is going to be this year,” said Alec Gutierrez, a senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book.

Automakers entered 2014 expecting to sell more than 16 million cars and trucks for the first time since the recession. But so far, sales are on pace to hit around 15 million, which would be 600,000 less than last year. But Gutierrez believes sales will recover reach 16.3 million for the year. The industry sold 16.1 million vehicles in 2007.

“We think there is still plenty of time left this year for sales to rebound and kind of get us back on that pace,” he said.

On Monday, General Motors, Ford and Toyota all reported U.S. sales declines for February. The country’s top three automakers by sales said the month started slowly but sales began to recover in the second half. If that momentum continues into March, fears of a broader sales slowdown may prove to be unfounded.

Industry analysts expect overall sales to rise about 1 percent for the month, a slow pace compared with the 8 percent increase for all of last year.

Dealer inventories, especially for the Detroit automakers, have hit their highest level in five years, putting pressure on companies to clear their lots. At the end of January, dealers had an 89-day supply of cars and trucks, according to Ward’s AutoInfoBank. Detroit automakers had the most, with General Motors at 114 days, followed by Ford at 107 and Chrysler at 105. A 60-day supply of vehicles is considered ideal.

Chrysler and Nissan were able to notch double-digit gains, but discounted some key models to get there. That points to another potential problem if automakers have to offer steeper discounts to shrink their inventories.

For consumers, it means deals. Incentives are the highest they’ve been in three years, averaging $2,633 per vehicle in February, up more than 5 percent from a year ago, according to TrueCar.com, a car buying site.

Larry Dominique, executive vice president of TrueCar, said automaker spending on discounts is growing faster than average sales prices, but he predicted that the bargains will wane as the weather gets warmer and customers go shopping again.

“We expect a return to balance once the winter subsides and inventories ease,” he said.

GM sold just over 222,000 cars and trucks in February, led by the Chevrolet Cruze compact car, with sales up almost 22 percent. But sales of the Chevy Silverado pickup, GM’s top-selling vehicle, fell 12 percent for the month. GM’s overall sales fell 1 percent.

Ford’s sales fell 6 percent to 184,000 vehicles. Sales of the F-Series pickup, its top-selling vehicle, rose just under 3 percent.

Toyota sales fell 4 percent to just over 159,000 cars and trucks.

Volkswagen, which has been struggling in the U.S., reported a 14 percent drop.

Nissan’s sales were up almost 16 percent to just over 115,000, led by the new Rogue crossover. Nissan’s average sales price fell almost 4 percent – more than $1,000 – compared with a year ago, according to TrueCar.

Chrysler sales rose 11 percent to nearly 155,000. While Chrysler’s average sale price was up 6 percent, it boosted discounts on the Ram pickup, its most popular model, by $593 compared with a year ago, according to data collected by J.D. Power and Associates.

The Ram discounts averaged just under $5,000. Ford and General Motors, its main competitors, offered around $4,000 per truck.

The Associated Press got the J.D. Power data from a person who asked not to be identified because the numbers aren’t typically released to the public.