Car sales on a roll in March

Buyers are ignoring Social Security tax increases and global worries, says a top exec at auto research company Edmunds. But Ford and GM may not be enjoying the gains.

By Charley Blaine Mar 27, 2013 4:48PM
Updated: 5:29 p.m.

March looks like an unexpectedly chipper month for auto sales, research firm says.

In a blog post on Wednesday, Vice Chairman Jeremy Anwyl wrote the sales data he's seen suggests sales may come in at a seasonally adjusted rate of 15.8 million units. That's up from what he'd been expecting: a sales rate of 15.5 million units.

But Ford Motor (F) and General Motors (GM) may see market-share declines. Automakers will report sales on Tuesday.
Anwyl estimates that retail sales (sales to you and me) will come in at 1.19 million units, with the seasonally adjusted annual rate hitting 12.9 million units. If sales to auto rental companies and other big so-called fleet buyers track at an additional 21%, the seasonal number should hit 15.8 million units.

Anwyl said Wednesday he was a bit surprised by March's strength. February sales were flat compared with January, but sales have accelerated through this month. (The data he cites ran through last week.)

Auto buyers seem unfazed by increases in Social Security taxes, talk about fiscal cliffs and sequestration and other news-media worries, he added.© Juice Images, Cultura, Getty Images

March sales could well be "significantly stronger than February's," said Jason Knapp, who tracks incentives at Autodata Corp., another big market research firm. The company's guess: Sales will be "up between 5% and 10% year-over-year, leaning towards the higher end of that range," Knapp said in an email.

Who's having a good month? Volkswagen (VLKAY) and Nissan (NSANY), whose market shares may be up 9% and 10%, respectively. Ford and GM market shares may drop 4% and 9% respectively. They were 16.4% and 18.8% in February, respectively.

Is that a question? Not necessarily, Edmunds' Anwyl said. Market shares are volatile month-to-month. They can be affected by the incentives a manufacturer offers. GM had a big incentive plan in February.

Chrysler's market share may increase slightly.

From the data he's seen, sales in Midwest are still stagnant. California is "wobbly." The Midwest economy has been hurt by the near collapse of the domestic industry. California suffered a deep real-estate-related slump.

Like housing, the auto industry's recovery from the 2008-2009 recession has been abnormally slow. Normally, both see big upswings when recoveries start. Some of the delay for the auto business has been the availability for credit. But getting an auto loan now is getting easier. That should help sales going forward, and Anwyl is hopeful that sales will soon top a 16-million-unit rate.

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Tags: FGM
Mar 28, 2013 1:55AM
I've read where subcompact cars are grabbing a larger share of the market.  Ford and GM are pushing away those of us who've ALWAYS bought American makes, are TALL, and want a subcompact.  The Ford Focus has 38.1" of front headroom and the head on my 6'3" body is in constant contact with the roof.  The legroom is so bad I brushed the bottom of the dashboard on a rental and turned the headlights on getting out of the car half the time.  The same with the Ford Fiesta (38.6"), the Buick Encore (37.9"), the Chevy Cruze (38.3"), and the Dodge Dart (38.1") - a stretched out version of the sporty Alfa Romeo Giulietta that's being very poorly marketed - as well as too short.  I bought a Honda Fit (40.4", lots of legroom and a very wide door).  If I had wanted a sedan, the Hyundai Elantra has 40.1".  Why do countries with shorter people than us cater to tall people more than American carmakers?
Mar 29, 2013 10:17PM
I just bought a Ford Escape. We love it.Toyucka Mitsubichy cant compare.
Mar 29, 2013 1:52AM
the_mick you are a complete idiot and the reason this country is how it is. a **** observation with no intention to help. you'd make a fine dog chasing its tail around. the_mick im talking to you. I SAY WHY DONT WE JUST CATER TO TALL PEOPLE INSTEAD OF HAVING SUPERIORS LIKE **** OVER HERE CATER TO THE SHORT
Mar 27, 2013 10:10PM

CRAZY 8`s:All the economic indicators are up and the market is at record highs.If

you havn`t participated, consider youself stupid.These are the good old days.

Mar 27, 2013 5:43PM

Republicans don`t want to hear positive articles like auto sales improving,housing improving,

jobs improving,markets at record highs.They want to hear war,recessions,hard times.

That will happen when we get a Republican President.That`s history repeating.

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