Looking for some good news in the dark and dismal new-vehicle sales picture? I had to scrape to find it, but try this: Bad as they were, February's U.S. sales were higher than January's.
But that has happened every year for at least the past 25. And aside from that kernel, February was terrible.
Sales plunged to 689,794 units last month, down 41.4 percent from a lackluster February 2008. Car sales were off 38.6 percent; light-truck deliveries declined 44.0 percent. In all, it was the worst February going back to the appearance of monthly sales data collection in 1976.
For two months, U.S. retail sales of 1,346,727 units were down 39.4 percent from 2008.
Last month, the seasonally adjusted annual selling rate collapsed to 9.1 million units, down from 9.8 million in January. Last year's actual sales were 13.2 million units; that total is almost certainly unattainable this year.
Don't blame the Detroit 3 for the entire disaster. True, combined February sales for General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC were down 49.3 percent from last year. But import brands tumbled 33.1 percent.