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General Motors and Nissan reported US new vehicle sales for February up 4 per cent year on year, on the back of consumer discounts at record levels, but Ford saw sales for the month fall 4 per cent on the year earlier period despite strong truck sales.

GM total sales hit 237,388 in February, up from 227,825 for last February, compared with an estimated decline of at least 1 per cent for the US auto industry as a whole in February year on year. Nissan announced total US sales for February 2017 of 135,740 units, an increase of 4 percent over the prior year.

Ford recorded total sales of 208,440 in February, a 4 per cent decline from last February’s 217,192, but sales of its profitable F-series pick up truck rose 9 per cent to 65,956.
“We continue seeing strong consumer demand for the highest-series Super Duty pickups and the all-new F-150 Raptor,” said Mark LaNeve, Ford head of US sales. “This drove a $3,600 increase in average transaction prices for F-Series last month alone”.

Michelle Krebs, analyst at Autotrader.com, said Ford fared worse than GM and Nissan in February because car sales fell sharply for the automaker, with Ford Fusion and Ford Focus sales each down more than 30 per cent while truck and SUV sales were up. “We are not yet seeing the bottom to the drop in traditional car sales in the industry as consumer preference for utilities and trucks increases”.

Meanwhile, Fiat Chrysler reported US sales down 10 per cent year on year, to 168,326 units from 187,318 in February last year. While Volkswagen US sales rose 12.7 per cent over the same period to 25,145 as the German automaker begins to recover from the effects of its diesel-emissions scandal.

For February, transaction prices are up more than 2 percent year-over-year, at $34,352 for a US light vehicle, according to Kelley Blue Book. “Even though sales now appear to be slowing down in the industry, the boom in utility vehicles is managing to boost profits for many automakers”. Most analysts are forecasting a decline of 1 per cent or more for the industry overall in February.

After a record year of sales in 2016 and seven consecutive year-over-year sales increases, Kelley Blue Book’s forecast for 2017 calls for sales in the range of 16.8m to 17.3m units, a 1 to 4 percent decrease from last year.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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