U.S. sales at General Motors and Ford Motor Co. rose in the first quarter and Toyota Motor Corp.'s deliveries declined for a third straight month, as inventories steadily recover from a microchip shortage and discounts, while still low, rise across much of the industry.
The overall market rose 8.6 percent to 1.37 million cars and light trucks in March, the highest monthly tally since May 2021, LMC Autmotive estimated, and slightly above the range of forecasts from analysts.
The seasonally adjusted, annualized rate of sales in March also came in higher than forecasts -- 13.8 million to 14.7 million -- at 14.9 million, Motor Intelligence said. The latest sales pace is well above the 13.67 million recorded in March 2022, but is down from January (16.21 million) and February (15.19 million), signaling the market may be losing traction as the spring selling season gets underway.
Volume is being driven mostly by stronger fleet, light-truck shipments and stable retail deliveries, even as higher interest rates and MSRPs, falling used-vehicle prices and tightening credit conditions sideline some new-car shoppers.
Fleet sales tallied 280,000 in March, higher than forecasts, LMC Automotive said in a preliminary report, and accounted for 20 percent of industry volume, the highest mix since the pandemic unfolded, and up from 15 percent in March 2022. Retail volume totaled 1.09 million last month, LMC said.
GM said first-quarter sales rose 18 percent to nearly 600,000, with volume up 16 percent at Chevrolet, 7.6 percent at GMC, 99 percent at Buick and 29 percent at Cadillac. Overall, U.S. retail sales rose 15 percent and fleet volume, representing 25 percent of deliveries, jumped 27 percent last quarter, GM reported. It was the third straight quarter of strong growth for the company.