Southfield, Michigan US car sales accelerated to the fastest pace in four years, led by Chrysler Group and a surprise gain from General Motors, as demand strengthened throughout car makers' lineups.
GM deliveries rose 1.1 per cent to 209,306 cars and light trucks, beating analysts' estimates for a 4.8 per cent decrease. Chrysler sales increased 40 per cent to 133,521 and Ford climbed 14 per cent to 178,644. Toyota and Honda deliveries each gained 12 per cent, while Nissan sales rose 16 per cent.
Light-vehicle sales in February accelerated to a 15.1 million seasonally adjusted annual rate, exceeding the 14.2 million pace that was the average of 17 analysts' estimates. The results were the best since February 2008 when US sales ran at a 15.5 million rate, according to Autodata Corp.
"Everyone's kind of blowing us out of the water," Alec Gutierrez, an analyst for Kelley Blue Book, said on Monday. "For fuel-efficient vehicles, we expected to see demand as gasoline prices really surged through the month, but the big surprise is on the truck front. It speaks to the broad-based nature of this recovery." The average estimate of ten analysts surveyed by Bloomberg was for a 26 per cent gain for Chrysler and 9.4 increase for Ford. The average of seven estimates was for an 8.2 per cent increase for Toyota, 4.5 per cent gain for Honda and 6.1 per cent rise for Nissan. US car sales ran at a 13.3 million pace in February 2011, according to Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey-based researcher Autodata.
Consumers gained confidence in February as the Dow Jones Industrial Average exceeded 13,000 for the first time since May 2008 and the unemployment rate fell to the lowest in three years. The improving economy may have blunted the impact of rising gasoline prices. The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded increased 14 per cent through the first two months of the year to $3.74 (Dh13.7), according to AAA, the nation's largest motoring group.
"It seems we've all underestimated the strength in the retail numbers," Jesse Toprak, an analyst for the auto-pricing website TrueCar.com, said last Monday. "There's pent-up demand being met even for larger vehicles because consumers are feeling more comfortable."