DETROIT -- The U.S. auto industry is expected to post a slight sales gain in February, compared with the same month last year, analysts say. Japanese automakers are likely to bite off a bigger chunk of the market.
Two analysts -- David Healy of Burnham Securities Inc. and Jesse Toprak at Edmunds.com -- foresee February sales rising between 1 and 2 percent above the 1.25 million units sold in February 2005.
If they are correct, it would mark a higher level of sales in the latter half of the month. U.S. retail auto sales through the first 12 days of February were down 8 percent compared with a year earlier, the Power Information Network unit of J.D. Power and Associates said on Tuesday, Feb. 21. Among the Big 6 automakers, only American Honda Motor Co. posted a retail sales gain in the first half of the month, the research firm said.
Automakers are set to report their February sales data on Wednesday, March 1.
Both analysts had predicted that January sales would come in beneath the year-earlier total but were surprised when January sales increased 7.5 percent to 1.14 million units.
What happened? General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and the Chrysler group posted extraordinarily big sales to fleets during January, a move the analysts hadn't expected. Healy says that in January fleets accounted for 38 percent of GM sales, 39 percent of Ford Motor sales and an estimated 30 percent of the Chrysler group's sales.
Toprak and Healy expect February sales to be more typical. Lately, typical means market share gains for Toyota and Honda and share losses for GM and Ford Motor.
- GM: Healy of Burnham Securities expects GM sales to be down 1 percent in February. Edmunds.com's Toprak sees GM's sales hitting 321,000 units, up 6 percent over the February 2005 tally.
- Ford Motor: Toprak sees Ford's sales hitting 228,000 units for the month, down 8 percent from a year earlier. Healy foresees the automaker's sales falling 3 percent from February 2005.
- Chrysler group: Healy forecasts a 2 percent drop for February. Edmunds.com's Toprak sees the drop closer to 6 percent, with sales of 174,000 units.
Toprak forecasts that GM, Ford and the Chrysler group will hold 57.3 percent of the market in February, which he says is down 0.3 percentage points from a year ago.
- Toyota: Both Healy and Toprak expect another month of gains for Toyota. Healy predicts 10 percent; Toprak predicts about 7 percent.
Healy did not make separate predictions for Honda and Nissan. He expects February sales for all foreign nameplates to be up about 8 percent over February 2005.
Toprak expects that Honda's February sales will be up 13 percent to 111,000 units. He forecasts that Nissan's February sales will drop 1 percent to 82,000 units.
You may e-mail Dale Jewett at [email protected]