DETROIT -- Fresh Toyota and General Motors incentives boosted the U.S. auto market in early March to the fastest sales pace this year, the auto data Web site Edmunds.com said today.
In the first eight days of March, the U.S. seasonally adjusted annualized sales rate was 12.5 million units, said Edmunds.com senior analyst Ray Zhou. That's the highest level since the cash-for-clunkers surge in August 2009.
“Generous incentives from GM and Toyota have stimulated this boom,” Zhou said. “But I anticipate that it will cool off and the month will end with a SAAR in the low 11 millions.”
Beset by multiple safety recalls and a 9 percent sales decline in February, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. on March 1 launched an incentives push offering 0 percent financing, subsidized lease rates and, for repeat customers, two years of free maintenance. GM quickly matched that.
With the incentives, the U.S. market share for Toyota's brands -- Toyota, Scion and Lexus -- jumped to 16.8 percent in early March from 12.8 percent in February, Zhou said. Its daily retail sales rate in early March rose about 71 percent from February's.
With similar heavy incentives, GM's Chevrolet brand improved its market share to 12.9 percent in early March from 11.3 percent in February, Zhou said.
Toyota's incentives make it the big winner so far for two reasons: It initiated the offer, and people recognize that the company's troubles make it ready to deal, said Edmunds.com CEO Jeremy Anwyl.
“But Toyota is lifting the entire market because people cross-shop,” he said. “They may go out to look at a Camry, but then they check out the competition and may come across a really good deal on a Malibu.”