The pace of new-vehicle sales improved in February compared with a year ago as previously sidelined demand — including that from fleet customers — kept transaction prices high and incentives low, even as inventory shortages eased.
Yet, as the industry continues to bounce along as it has for months with strong fundamentals that should portend continued high profitability, the first signs of a slight reversion to more historically normal conditions are appearing, analysts said.
Results were split in February among automakers reporting their sales, with Ford Motor Co. and Hyundai-Kia posting double-digit gains, led by Ford's 22 percent jump. Meanwhile Mazda North America, Subaru of America and Volvo Car USA also posted sales increases last month, while sales fell 2.4 percent at Toyota Motor North America, despite the first year-over-year increase at Lexus since January 2022.
Data firm Motor Intelligence estimated February's seasonally adjusted, annualized sales rate at 15.19 million, up from 13.96 million a year ago. January's rate was 16.21 million. LMC Automotive said industrywide February sales rose 9.5 percent over a year ago to 1.14 million vehicles, including automakers that won't report sales until the end of the quarter. February's showing, along with continued demand from fleet customers, convinced LMC to raise its outlook for U.S. sales in 2023 to 15 million, up from 14.9 million.