Cold weather dents U.S. sales forecast for 2014

U.S. auto sales compared with a year ago were down 3.1 percent in January and flat in February.
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DETROIT (Reuters) -- Industry consultants LMC Automotive and J.D. Power said they cut their joint 2014 forecast for U.S. auto sales to adjust for slow sales in January and February due to cold weather.

LMC-J.D. Power estimated that sales would be 16.1 million this year, down from their previous forecast of 16.2 million.

For March, the consultancies forecast a sales increase of 2.2 percent to 1.19 million vehicles, which translates to an annualized selling rate of 15.8 million vehicles. Last March, the annualized selling rate was 15.3 million vehicles.

"The selling pace for the year was slow out of the gate, but the industry remains poised for stable growth in the near- to mid-term," said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive.

U.S. auto sales compared with a year ago were down 3.1 percent in January and flat in February.

February's annualized selling rate was 15.36 million vehicles and January's was 15.20 million vehicles, according to the Automotive News Data Center.

Production for the first quarter is seen up 4 percent, said LMC's Bill Rinna, senior manager of forecasting.

Full-year 2014 auto production for North America is forecast at 16.5 million vehicles, with an increase of 7 percent to 3.1 million vehicles in Mexico, an increase of 3 percent to 11.1 million vehicles in the United States and a drop of 5 percent to 2.3 million vehicles in Canada, LMC said.

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