The month of February brought both good news and bad news to the U.S. auto industry. While overall light vehicle sales rose 5.3 percent over the previous year, the volume was lower than what analysts expected. Many predicted an increase of at least 7 to 8 percent.
Just like last year, severe winter weather was again to blame for the slightly disappointing figures. Automakers sold a total of 1.26 million cars and trucks, about 30,000 units fewer than forecast. The seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) also missed projections at 16.24 million, the lowest since April 2014. Analysts originally forecast a 16.6 million SAAR for February.
While most consumers were forced by frigid temperatures to stay away from showrooms, there were still many who braved the cold. Most of these people opted for a new SUV or pickup truck. SUV and pickup deliveries climbed 11.8 percent last month. Meanwhile, car sales dropped 1.4 percent.
Toyota Motor Corp. led the pack of winners in February. The Japanese automaker sold 180,467 vehicles, up 13.3 percent over the previous year. Sales of its namesake division jumped 13 percent while deliveries of its Lexus luxury brand went up 22 percent. Toyota’s bestselling cars (the Corolla and Camry) both posted double-digit increases, but its RAV4 crossover was a bigger winner with a 33 percent gain.
Two other Japanese automakers posted double-digit growth. Fuji Heavy’s Subaru reported a 19 percent advance. However, last month was the first time since June 2014 that the company posted an increase below 20 percent. The other one is Mitsubishi, whose volume got a 26 percent boost.
Other Asian automakers also posted sales gains. The Hyundai Group rose 7 percent, Nissan advanced 2.7 percent (helped by Infiniti’s nearly 20 percent jump), while American Honda added 5 percent.
As for domestic automakers, only one reported a decline.
Sales of FCA US (the former Chrysler Group) gained 5.6 percent. The advance was driven by double-digit gains of Ram (11.5 percent), Jeep (21.1 percent) and the Chrysler division (13 percent).
General Motors Co. posted a 4.2 percent increase. Though its Buick and Cadillac brands declined, its Chevrolet and GMC brands had an upswing. GMC in particular had a strong month—the truck brand sold 19.3 percent more to 42,433 units.
Ford Motor Co.’s February volume slipped 2 percent, despite strong sales of certain nameplates (such as the Mustang and Explorer). Both its namesake brand and Lincoln luxury division posted declines.