Improving inventory helped U.S. sales at Ford Motor Co. jump 22 percent in February while Hyundai, Kia and Subaru advanced for the seventh straight month, signalling the market recovery remains steady even amid some economic hurdles. Volume dropped for the second consecutive month at Toyota Motor Corp. on continued tight supplies.
U.S. light-vehicle sales overall rose 9.5 percent to 1.14 million last month, according to a preliminary tally from LMC Automotive, well above forecasts, with sharply higher fleet deliveries once again offsetting flat retail volume.
The seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales hit 15.19 million last month, Motor Intelligence said, well ahead of the 14.4 million to 14.6 million projected by analysts. The latest SAAR reading is down from January's 16.21 million rate but a sharp rise from February 2022's 13.96 million pace.
In another positive sign, the daily selling rate was estimated at 47,700 units last month, LMC Automotive noted, up from 43,900 in January.
"Given the headwinds of sky-high average transaction prices, lingering inventory shortages for some automakers, and economic uncertainty, February’s results surpassed expectations and can be considered an encouraging outcome," LMC said Thursday.
Retail sales last month totaled around 928,000, while fleet accounted for about 217,000 deliveries, representing around 19 percent of total volume, the highest share since March 2020, LMC said. Several automakers face a backlog of commercial, government and rental fleet orders as a result of the microchip shortage that prompted many to prioritize more profitable retail volume.
LMC, citing the stronger than expected February results and continued strong fleet demand, said it raised its outlook for U.S. light-vehicle sales in 2023 to 15 million from 14.9 million, in line with outlooks from General Motors and Toyota.
"The economy is also stronger than expected at the start of the year, as consumers remain resilient in their spending and the labor market continues to be steady," LMC said. "This could push the timing of a mild recession to later in 2023."