Ford Motor Co. and General Motors both saw U.S. sales fall in February, compared with a year earlier. And both said they will build fewer vehicles in the second quarter of this year than they did a year ago.
In a familiar pattern, the Big 2s Japanese rivals -- American Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. -- posted gains in their U.S. sales for February. DaimlerChrysler, BMW AG and Volkswagen AG also joined the positive side of the ledger.
Analysts had predicted that U.S. auto sales in February would rise as much as 2 percent. But sales for the month totaled 1,261,713 units, up a scant 0.6 percent from a year ago.
The months sales rate translates into a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 16.9 million units, according to the Automotive News Data Center.
After two months of this year, auto sales are up 3.8 percent from a year ago to 2,405,057 units.
GM improves retail sales
U.S. sales at Ford Motor in February fell 4.2 percent from the same month a year earlier to 242,652 units. At GM, sales for the month fell 2.6 percent from February 2005 to 297,481 units.
After two months of this year, GMs sales are up 1.5 percent to 590,612 units. Ford Motors sales are down 1.5 percent to 447,175 units.
But the automakers are headed in different directions in fleet sales.
GM executives pointed out that the automakers retail sales rose 1 percent in February when compared with the same month last year. Fleet deliveries dropped 11 percent for the month, GM sales analyst Paul Ballew said. That drop explained, in part, the fall in GM sales, he said.
Fleet is going to be a challenge for us in the next few months and the rest of the year as we aggressively back off it, Ballew said. In some months it could be down 15,000 to 20,000 units.
But at Ford, fleet sales were up 11 percent from a year ago, and for the year to date they are up 15 percent, said George Pipas, Fords chief sales analyst.
Fords retail sales in February were down 11 percent from a year ago, Pipas said.
At the retail level, we have not yet reached the stabilization, but we have quite substantially reduced the rate of decline, Pipas said.
Big 2 cut production for second quarter
Both Ford and GM plan to build fewer vehicles in the second quarter of this year than they did a year ago.
Ford said Wednesday that it plans to build about 890,000 vehicles in North America in the second quarter. That would be down 1.8 percent, or 16,000 vehicles, from 906,000 vehicles assembled in the same quarter last year.
Fords entire production cutback is coming from light trucks. The automaker plans to build 325,000 cars in the second quarter, compared with 294,000 cars a year ago. The company plans to build 565,000 light trucks from April through June, compared with 612,000 trucks during the same period last year.
GMs production forecast of 1.2 million units for the second quarter of this year is down 3.7 percent from its output of 1.25 million units in the quarter a year ago. It plans on a production split of 445,000 cars and 755, 000 trucks.
Chrysler group extends no-interest incentive
DaimlerChrysler sales rose 4.3 percent in February from a year earlier, and sales executives at the Chrysler group crowed that they moved about 30,200 units of the LX platform during the month. That platform is the basis for the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Dodge Magnum.
Yet the Chrysler group extended its 0 percent financing for 60 months program through the end of March. It made a small change to the program -- buyers can no longer combine the cut-rate interest with cash rebates. Vehicles eligible for the program include the automakers minivans, the Chrysler Pacifica, Dodge Ram and Dakota pickups, and Dodge Durango, Jeep Liberty, Wrangler, Grand Cherokee and Commander SUVs.
Record months for Toyota, Honda
Both Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. and American Honda Motor Co. said U.S. sales in February were records for the month.
American Hondas sales rose 8.7 percent from a year ago to 106,644 units. Helping fuel the gain was a 37.6 percent increase in Honda Civic sales for the month, American Honda said.
At Toyota, the automaker said Scion sales were the best ever for the month with 11,407 units sold. The Japanese automakers sales also got a boost from the redesigned RAV4 SUV. Light-truck sales of 68,509 units for the Toyota Division were a record for the month, the automaker said.
VW sales up 13 percent
Meanwhile, German automaker Volkswagen AG notched a 13.0 percent gain in U.S. sales in February, including the Audi and Bentley brands. The gain, to 21,458 units, was fueled by higher sales of the VW Jetta and Passat cars.
After two months of this year, VW group sales are up 19.2 percent to 43,988 units.
You may e-mail Dale Jewett at [email protected]