U.S. light-vehicle sales, fueled by demand for light trucks, rose 4.6 percent in April as every automaker but Honda recorded an increase.
The industry stretched its streak of advances from the year-earlier month to 14 as total sales reached 1.46 million. But the results fell short of projections for a 5.9 percent gain, based on the average estimate from 12 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Across the industry, car volume slipped 1.6 percent while truck demand surged 11 percent.
The seasonally adjusted sales rate -- 16.52 million -- was also shy of estimates in the 16.7 million range. The pace of sales in April was down from March’s 17.1 million rate but up from 16.1 million in April 2014.
Fiat Chrysler's 5.8 percent advance from a year-earlier marked the automaker’s 61st consecutive monthly gain. Nissan Group and General Motors were back in the winning column after March sales declines. Ford Motor Co. ended a two-month skid, while Hyundai defied analysts’ forecasts of a drop.
Each of those companies were among the biggest spenders on incentives last month, according to TrueCar.
The last time U.S. sales fell vs. the year-ago month was February of last year.
After posting seven consecutive gains, Honda Motor Co. was down for a second straight month in April. The company fell 1.8 percent from a year earlier, as a 5.3 percent gain at Acura failed to overcome a 2.7 percent decline at the namesake brand.
Toyota Motor Corp.’s sales rose 1.8 percent to 203,329 -- its smallest advance since deliveries rose 1.7 percent in September 2014 -- on strong light truck demand. The Toyota RAV4 and Highlander crossovers logged their best-ever April results, and combined sales of the Tundra full-sized pickup and Tacoma midsize pickup rose by 9 percent.
“Light truck sales have carried the auto industry to its best start in 15 years,” Bill Fay, Toyota Division group vice president and general manager, said in a statement. “The demand for crossover SUVs is off the charts.”
Ford’s April sales rose 5.4 percent from a year earlier. The Ford brand was up 4.9 percent, while Lincoln advanced 20 percent. Ford said retail sales gained 7 percent and fleet deliveries were up 1 percent.
General Motors posted a 5.9 percent increase. Chevrolet gained 3.4 percent and GMC rose 20 percent. Cadillac’s 14 percent advance marked just its second gain in the last seven months. Buick fell 5.2 percent.
Jeep's U.S. deliveries jumped 20 percent to 71,759 last month, an April record. Sales of the new Renegade totaled 4,214 in its first full month on the market, FCA said today.
Volume advanced 4.3 percent at the Ram brand and 26 percent at the Chrysler brand, while slipping 16 percent at Dodge and 13 percent at Fiat. Dodge sales have been hurt by the discontinuation of the Avenger midsize sedan, and suspension of Caravan minivan output to retool a plant in Windsor, Ontario.
FCA’s overall light-truck sales slipped 1 percent while car volume rose 29 percent last month.
Nissan Group, meanwhile, said its sales rose 5.7 percent from a year earlier. The Nissan Division was up 5.4 percent, while Infiniti advanced 8.8 percent.
Hyundai’s U.S. sales rose 2.9 percent to 68,009 last month, setting an April record. Some analysts had projected a decline for Hyundai.
Deliveries rose 18 percent to 47,241 -- an April record -- at Subaru, extending the company's streak of monthly sales gains to 41 months. Volume rose 7.5 percent at Mazda and 26 percent at Mitsubishi.
Audi, extending its hot streak, said U.S. deliveries rose 7.5 percent to 16,827 vehicles last month. April marked the brand’s 52nd-straight monthly U.S. sales record. “Strong demand in particular for models such as the Audi Q3 and the A3 gives us confidence that we will continue to draw new customers to our brand well into the summer,” said Mark Del Rosso, COO of Audi of America.
Sales slipped for the third straight month at the Volkswagen brand, with volume off 2.7 percent in April and 7.5 percent year to date.