U.S. light-vehicle sales fell at Ford, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Subaru and Kia last month, matching forecasts for a weaker February with fewer selling days and inclement weather dampening demand, even as the industry slowly recovers from the pandemic.
In addition to sharply lower car sales, lower fleet shipments, reflecting depressed business and leisure travel, also appeared to hurt several automakers last month, analysts said.
The seasonally adjusted, annualized rate of sales for February came in at a healthy 15.9 million, Motor Intelligence and Morgan Stanley said, within the range of 15.5 million to 16.3 million forecast from J.D Power/LMC, TrueCar and Cox Automotive. But the latest pace of sales is well below February 2020’s 17 million rate yet slightly ahead of the 16.83 million pace tallied in January. Cox Automotive on Wednesday estimated the February sales rate at 15.7 million.
How automakers fared
Volvo, one of the hottest brands, with 2020 sales rising 1.8 percent, bucked the broad downturn and racked up a 17 percent gain last month.
Ford Motor Co. said Wednesday its February sales slid 14 percent, with retail deliveries off 1.8 percent and car volume down 65 percent on the discontinuation of several models such as the Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ and Continental.
Deliveries fell 14 percent at Ford and 22 percent at Lincoln.
Toyota Motor Corp. volume dropped 5.7 percent, with deliveries down 6.6 percent at the Toyota division but up 1.4 percent at Lexus. The Toyota brand was hurt by a 17 percent decline in car volume, an ongoing weak spot across the industry as Americans migrate to crossovers and other light trucks.
Combined car sales at Toyota and Lexus fell 16 percent while light-truck demand edged down 0.3 percent.
American Honda's volume dropped 11 percent, with sales off 12 percent at the Honda division and 5.8 percent at Acura. Combined Honda and Acura car deliveries were especially weak, falling 33 percent, with the Accord off 27 percent and Civic down 38 percent, while light-truck demand rose 5 percent, the company said.
At Subaru, volume fell 6.6 percent, with Mother Nature delivering "a multitude of challenges" during the month, Subaru of America CEO Tom Doll said in a statement.
Deliveries dropped 8.8 percent at Hyundai and 7.9 percent at Kia in February, the companies said. Hyundai, which has enjoyed strong consumer demand for an expanded crossover lineup, said retail volume slipped 2 percent last month, with fleet off 47 percent.
Mazda said U.S. sales dropped 8.4 percent last month, with car demand off 17 percent and light-truck deliveries down 6 percent, though CX-30 and CX-9 volume rose.
Sales jumped 51 percent at Genesis, with deliveries of the new GV80 utility vehicle -- 1,283 -- topping combined volume of the brand's three sedans.
U.S. light-vehicle deliveries were forecast to fall 9-11 percent across the industry in February, in part because of two fewer selling days and one less weekend of sales. Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas, in a note to investors Tuesday, said February light-vehicle deliveries declined 13 percent across the industry.
February is usually one of the weakest months for sales but the market continues to rebound from the economic shocks of the pandemic, analysts say. Severe weather in parts of the country, notably record cold temperatures across Texas and the south, also disrupted the market last month.
“Texas accounts for nearly 1 out of every 11 vehicles sold, so the short-term impact on sales from this event will be felt," said Charlie Chesbrough, senior economist at Cox Automotive. "However, it’s likely only a blip in the overall sales picture, as sales are expected to recover for the quarter.”
Hyundai and Kia were also hobbled by an extended computer network outage last month that upended sales and financing deals.
Randy Parker, head of national sales for Hyundai Motor America, said consumer demand remains strong and predicted sales will bounce back in areas affected by weather over the next several months.
With COVID-19 vaccines becoming widely available and more government stimulus in the pipeline, analysts expect the recovery to gain momentum.
“We're likely to see a very strong spring in the vehicle market," Cox Automotive Chief Economist Jonathan Smoke said Wednesday. "The only limiters to the sale potential are going to be the tight supply and record prices.”