Blame fleet flop, not snow slop, for January's disappointing auto sales.
After U.S. light-vehicle sales fell 3 percent in January, most automakers blamed lousy weather that kept shoppers from showrooms.
But among the major players, sales at dealerships outperformed the overall market while fleet volume tumbled 12 percent last month.
Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. was the starkest example. Its retail volume was flat but fleet sales plunged 44 percent from last January when it was catching up on deferred fleet orders. As a result, Toyota's net sales dropped 7 percent.
Sharp fleet declines sapped overall results among the Detroit 3 as well.
General Motors lost 10 percent on retail, but its fleet shipments fell 18 percent.
Ford Motor Co. retailed 113,700 Fords and Lincolns, off 5 percent. But it slashed fleet volume 14 percent to 40,900 units.
Ford chief sales analyst Erich Merkle said sales to commercial buyers held at 14 percent of total volume and government buyers took slightly more, but daily rental dropped three points to 7 percent of net volume.
At Chrysler Group, fleet dropped 9 percent, dragging a 14 percent surge in retail to a net 8 percent increase.
The two exceptions to this trend were the smallest of the major automakers.
At Nissan North America, retail sales climbed a solid 9 percent, but fleet transactions jumped 25 percent and accounted for one-fifth of its total U.S. volume in January.
Hyundai-Kia eked out a net 1 percent January sales increase, but only because fleet volume soared 27 percent. Retail sales fell 3 percent for the two South Korean brands.
American Honda Motor Co. allows its dealers to handle fleet activity. The Automotive News Data Center estimates Honda's fleet volume at a flat 2 percent of total sales.