The monthly sales report is a gold mine for lovers of automotive facts and figures. Every number has a story to tell. Here are some of those stories.
At first glance, the new-vehicle sales picture has not changed a lot in 10 years. Ford was first in car sales and truck sales in February 1989, and Chevrolet was second. Same order last month.
Honda and Pontiac were fourth and fifth, respectively, in car sales this year; Pontiac and Honda were third and fourth in February 1989. The top five light-truck sellers were the same both years - Ford, Chevy, Dodge, GMC, Jeep.
The names are the same but the figures are vastly different. They point out the shift from cars to trucks in the U.S. market.
Ford car sales last month were down 30 percent from February 1989, but Ford light-truck sales were up 66 percent. Chevrolet car sales were down 29 percent; Chevy truck sales were up 33 percent.
Dodge truck sales nearly doubled, up 97 percent over the 1989 month. Jeep sales more than doubled, up 128 percent.
For the entire industry, last month's car sales were down 10 percent from February 1989; truck sales were up 73 percent. February car and light-truck sales combined rose 17 percent from a decade ago.
IN LUXURY, IT'S LEXUS
Lexus moved ahead of Mercedes-Benz last month to lead the luxury class, both for February and for the year to date.
Yes, we're talking about the entire luxury class - cars and trucks. After two months, Lincoln was third and Cadillac was fifth, behind BMW.
Perhaps the two American entries need a couple more 35-day months to get back on top. Both makes counted 35 days of December sales when they were vying for 1998 leadership, which Cadillac won by 222 units.
In February, sport-utilities accounted for 46 percent of Lexus sales. The sport-utility share was 26 percent for Lincoln and Mercedes and 7 percent for Cadillac. BMW does not have a sport-utility yet - and it shows in the sales column.
EUROPE ON A ROLL
European-badged cars and trucks are riding a sales wave in the United States, with 4.9 percent of the market last year. That was up from 3.9 percent in 1997 and a mere 2.7 percent as recently as 1994.
OK, 2.2 points of market share in four years. Big deal!
Actually, it is a big deal. Moving to 4.9 from 2.7 means an 81 percent increase in market share.
The first two months of this year were not quite so kind to the Europeans - market share was 4.0 percent.
A MILD RETREAT
In February, trucks took a tiny step backward in their bid to match cars sale-for-sale in the U.S. market. Trucks had 47.8 percent of the February pie, down from 49.8 percent in January. For two months, the truck share is 48.7 percent.
How close are trucks to cars? For two months, trucks were 31,261 sales below 50 percent of the market. There were 49 selling days in the two months. If 652 sales per day had been trucks instead of cars, trucks would have had a fraction over 50 percent of the market. The daily rate for the 49 selling days was 48,671.