Chrysler leads strong February auto sales

Overall US sales are expected to rise 10% for the month from a year earlier.

By Kim Peterson Mar 1, 2012 1:17PM
Image: Couple shopping for car (© Image100/Jupiterimages)Updated 5 p.m. ET

Can anything stop Chrysler? The auto industry is in the midst of a remarkable revival, but Chrysler especially is putting up huge numbers.

The automaker reported another spectacular month of sales for February, with U.S. sales soaring 40% -- higher than the 32% growth analysts expected. It was the best February sales in four years. Not bad for a company that filed for bankruptcy in 2009.

All of the major automakers reported their February sales Thursday. The overall industry beat expectations for the month, with the seasonally adjusted annual rate for light vehicles coming in at 15.1 million units, according to industry tracking firm Autodata. That's the highest rate since February of 2008, and up 15.7% from a year earlier. Sales were expected to rise 10% from a year earlier.

Car sales more than doubled at Chrysler, which sold a total of 133,521 vehicles in the U.S. The automaker has seen U.S. sales grow at least 20% for nine months straight.

Are rising gas prices scaring people away from buying cars? The following video has the answer.

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Earlier this month, Chrysler reported its first annual profit since 2005. The company is benefiting from a new lineup, including the Chrysler 200 and 300 sedans. Other popular models included the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Dodge Caravan and the Ram pickup truck.

General Motors (GM) was another surprise. Analysts expected sales to fall 5% to 6% in February, but the automaker reported a 1.1% increase to 209,306 vehicles. The company said it hit that number with help from a stronger economy and a 6% sales spike in its Chevrolet division.

GM said its commercial deliveries, which rose 35% in February on strong interest in heavy-duty pickups, were a good barometer for the economy. Also in play were stronger employment and credit availability and an improved housing market.

Some of GM's strongest sellers included the Chevrolet Silverado HD, GMC Sierra HD and the Buick LaCrosse. GM shares rose nearly 2% Thursday to close at $26.47.

Ford (F) said its sales rose 14% in February to 179,119 vehicles. And about 40% of that gain was due to one car: the Focus. With gas prices rising, expect the Focus to remain a top priority for Ford this spring.

Ford also announced a plan to build 730,000 vehicles in the second quarter -- 3% more than what it built in the same period last year. The company's stock price rose more than 2% Thursday to close at $12.66.

Toyota Motor (TM) said its February sales rose 7.9% to 159,423. Most of those sales were in the Toyota division, which saw sales rise 7%, but the Lexus division reported a 16% increase to 16,678 units sold.

The Camry and Camry Hybrid led sales of passenger cars, with combined sales of 34,542 units, while Prius sales rose 46% to 20,589 units. Toyota's ADR shares rose less than 1% Thursday to close at $83.07.

Here's how the rest of the automakers fared in February:

Honda Motor (HMC)
Vehicles sold: 110,157
Change from a year earlier: 7.8% gain
Of note: New Honda Civic sees 27,087 in sales

Vehicles sold: 106,731
Change from a year earlier: 15.5% gain
Of note: Altima sales set a February record of 32,953 units

Vehicles sold: 51,151
Change from a year earlier: 18% gain
Of note: Still dealing with tight vehicle supply

Vehicles sold: 45,038
Change from a year earlier: 37.3% gain
Of note: First US factory contributed to growth

Vehicles sold: 30,577
Change from a year earlier: 42.5% gain
Of note: The best February sales since 1973

Mercedez-Benz USA
Vehicles sold: 19,679
Change from a year earlier: 21.7% gain
Of note: Strong sales across all models
Tags: FgmHMCTM
Mar 1, 2012 2:00PM
Hopefully GM will continue to do well and again become the world's #1 automaker.  What a breath of fresh air it is to learn that sales of REAL American cars (with GM, Chrysler and Ford raking in the profits) continue to increase.  Perhaps in my lifetime I will again get to see American automakers flourish and foreign car sales dwindle to almost nothing.  I can only hope... 
Mar 1, 2012 1:54PM
It's about time!!   I hope the trend continues.  The 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee is a hot car.
Mar 1, 2012 3:18PM

It's time to start celebrating the recovery.  Our country's economy is still run heavily on the auto industry.  New car sales rising means more sales for the dealerships, more advertising, more sales for the sales people.  More sales for the sales people mean more money in their pocket, which will mean they will buy that new dishwasher, washer and dryer, take their families out to dinner, go on vacation, etc.  The money will begin to trickle into the general economy within months like a ripple.

Mar 1, 2012 1:56PM
I don't need a new car! no payments.My car runs and looks great still.
Mar 1, 2012 2:29PM
Hum, People are spending money that have not even earned yet on a new car, Gas Prices are going to skyrocket in the coming weeks, along with all goods associated with use of fuel... that's good news ?   combine the gas bill with the payment on the car OUCH  
Mar 2, 2012 9:41AM
Anyone who thinks GM has poor gas mileage has obviously never owned one, there is no manufacturer that can touch GM's gas mileage..period. Driving some econobox Import where the profits support a foreign economy and "thinking" your getting the best mileage doesn't make it so. America builds the cars that the imports always compare to, and as has been proven with imports like Toyota, they aren't always truthful about their product and it's problems. American cars are built in America, employ Americans and their wages are spent here on taxes, houses and durable goods, and the Auto Manufacturers are regulated, pay taxes, buy steel, and support the American economy. I'd rather drive a better product, that I know has excellent mileage that supports the rights in an America Democracy and the environment, than support a foreign government with American dollars.
Mar 1, 2012 2:38PM
The big gains at Chrysler are based on what they did in the previous year.  If you were horrible last year and did ok this year you look like a hero. 
Mar 1, 2012 3:22PM
General Motors and Chrysler continue to make vehicles with mediocre reliability and not enough miles per gallon. I am for supporting Domestic products. Unfortunately, long term ramifications aside, the most bang for my buck is still a Toyota, Mazda or Honda. 
Mar 1, 2012 1:48PM
Government Motors is last. Why am I not surprised?
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