Automakers have consistently tried to come up with better ways to move the metal each month, but nothing works as well as extra selling days and tons of money on the hood.
Though most automakers won't report their results until the end of the quarter, those that did reveal their February U.S. sales last week saw big jumps — especially from their light-truck lineups — as two extra selling days and record February incentives worked their magic on the numbers.
The month's light-vehicle seasonally adjusted, annualized rate was 17.04 million, following a 17.07 million rate in January, according to estimates by Motor Intelligence.
Meanwhile, a surprise half-point rate cut by the Federal Reserve on Tuesday, March 3, to stave off a potential recession from the effects of the coronavirus has already resurrected one proven industry metal mover — 0 percent auto financing — and should help the industry weather what still may be trying times ahead.
All seven automakers that reported February sales were up for the month, led by Mazda's 19 percent jump. Hyundai-Kia, up 18 percent, and Subaru, up 5.3 percent, set records for February sales, while Toyota Motor North America was up 12 percent and had a record month with several of its light trucks. American Honda tallied a 4.2 percent gain, while Mitsubishi was up 13 percent and Volvo was up 18 percent.
Other automakers — led by the Detroit 3, German brands and Nissan Motor Co. — have chosen to shift from monthly U.S. sales releases to quarterly reports, which obfuscate their results during interim months such as February.
Even though the majority of the U.S. market did not report, analysts believe their numbers likely also gained from the leap-year calendar and larger incentives.