Chrysler Group volume leaps 40% on car surge
Cars were the stars for Chrysler in February. Passenger car sales more than doubled last month to 40,024 units, with 300 demand surging 480 percent.
DETROIT -- Chrysler Group extended its month-over-month sales-gain streak to 23 months in February, posting double- or triple-digit sales gains on every continuing model in its lineup.
The automaker's sales were up 40 percent in the United States to 133,521 units -- its strongest February since 2008 -- compared with 95,102 units last year.
The automaker was helped by the industry's highest vehicle incentives, the buzz generated from its two-minute "Halftime in America" Super Bowl spot and mild weather, dealers said.
Cars were the stars: Car sales more than doubled last month to 40,024 units.
Pickup and SUV sales, which represented 70 percent of Chrysler Group's sales in February, were up 21 percent month-over-month to 93,497 units, despite rising fuel prices nationwide.
The Chrysler brand's three-vehicle lineup had the sharpest sales increase in February, more than doubling to 27,008 units, while sales of Jeep vehicles rose 30 percent to 37,312 units. Dodge posted a 27 percent sales gain to remain the automaker's largest brand at 42,692 units, and the Ram truck brand recorded a 15 percent sales gain to 23,282 units.
"A few years ago higher fuel prices were a major threat to our total vehicle sales whereas today those higher prices have become far less of an issue," Reid Bigland, head of U.S. sales for the automaker, said in a statement.
Chrysler offered the highest incentives per model -- an average $3,251 -- last month among major automakers, online shopping guide TrueCar.com says.
Sales of the automaker's flagship Chrysler 300 sedan recorded a near sixfold increase in February to 7,670 units; and sales of its linemate, the Dodge Charger, more than doubled to 7,324 units. The Chrysler 200 recorded a fourfold sales increase to 9,717 units; and sales of its linemate, the Dodge Avenger, rose 89 percent to 6,570 units.
The Fiat 500 finished its first year on the market with its highest monthly sales to date at 3,227 units, giving the subcompact a first-year total of 24,907 units sold in the United States. Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne had originally predicted annual North American sales of the Italian subcompact would reach 50,000 units a year.
On the other end of the automaker's size spectrum, its lineup of the Ram pickup recorded a 21 percent sales increase to 22,595 units to remain the automaker's best-selling vehicle.
While continuing advertising support and fresher products helped Chrysler Group to its strongest February sales since 2008, dealers in some parts of the country said this year's mild winter also helped.
"Definitely, the weather had something to do with it," said Adib Nader, general sales manager at Spitzer Motor City Inc., a Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram dealer in Cleveland.
"We haven't had hardly any snow at all, and we saw a definite increase in our foot traffic last month. We exceeded all our expectations."
Nader said the dealership's new-vehicle sales last month doubled from February 2011 to 70 units. The Spitzer dealership was restored in late 2010 after it was one of 789 franchises eliminated at part of Chrysler's 2009 bankruptcy proceedings.
Chrysler Group said it had a 66-day supply of inventory on hand on Feb. 29, with 354,928 unsold units.
The automaker's two minivans both recorded sales increases of more than 20 percent, with the Dodge Grand Caravan outselling the more expensive Chrysler Town & Country for the third straight month.
The automaker is considering a product plan that would replace the two minivans with one. Only about a third of Grand Caravan sales during 2011 were retail sales, vs. fleet, compared with about two-thirds of Town & Country sales, according to industry analyst R.L. Polk. c
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