Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler both had their best February for U.S. sales since 2006, and Nissan North America posted its highest market share for any month ever. Meanwhile, General Motors is on pace to lose share for a fifth consecutive year.
For all four companies, the explanation largely comes down to one word: fleet.
GM's fleet deliveries dropped 24 percent last month, resulting in a 1.5 percent drop in the company's overall sales. In contrast, FCA's fleet sales surged 39 percent, Ford's jumped 42 percent, and Nissan's soared 54 percent.
Those gains helped push the U.S. light-vehicle selling rate to its highest level for any February since 2000. Sales rose 6.8 percent from a year earlier, rebuilding some of the momentum that had ebbed amid January snowstorms and setting the stage for a boisterous start to the traditional spring selling season this month.
GM said it's making a strategic cutback in less profitable fleet sales -- and that the approach is paying off through healthy margins and inventories. Ford attributed its February fleet bump to order timing and production capacity, saying lower deliveries to rental-car lots later in the year will make up for higher volumes in the first few months.
But Ford also defended its use of fleet, which accounted for 36 percent of February sales, with more than half of those vehicles going to rental-car lots.