Counting Cars

February SAAR Rockets Upward On Better Than Expected Sales


WardsAuto was on the optimistic side of industry forecasters, but even Ward's outlook wasn't sunny enough to account for a spike in February sales that brought the seasonally adjusted annual rate to pre-recession levels. 



February 2012 SAAR: 15 million units.

 WardsAuto was on the optimistic side of industry forecasters, projecting a 14.3 million-unit SAAR for February that was slightly above the consensus forecast. But Ward's sunny outlook apparently wasn't bright enough.

The estimated SAAR for the month of 15 million units is the highest annual rate since February 2008 - before the gas crisis, financial crisis or GM/Chrysler bankruptcies brought monthly sales crashing down.

And while strong commercial fleet sales of trucks and high sales to rental companies may have helped drive sales, the better-than-expected sales show the auto industry recovery is not just continuing but accelerating.

Chrysler reported 132,854 light vehicle deliveries, up 35%, 6% above expectations.

Ford Motor Co. reported light vehicle sales of over 175,000 units - up 10%, and 3% above expectations - with Focus having its best non-clunker month since May 2008. F-Series sales were also up considerably, as Ford continues to pull in a heavy commercial fleet sale mix.

GM sales meanwhile were down 2.9% on a daily basis - but even that was slightly above expectations. Collectively, Detroit 3 sales were up 9.3% in February and are up 10% for the first two months of 2012.

Honda finished 10% above forecast levels, with 110,157 units for the month, up 7.8% over year ago, and the company's highest volume sales since April - the last month before tsunami-related production stoppages sent Honda sales plummeting.

Toyota had its best year-over-year performance since last February, with 159,423 units up 7.9% over like-2011. Nissan sales were up nearly 11% over a very good year-ago, though industry talk attributes a larger than average % of that volume went to rental companies and other fleet sales.

Hyundai daily sales were up 12.8% for the month - with a DSR just above 2,000 units equating to 51,151 light vehicle sales for the month. Kia was up 31.8% on sales of 45,038 light vehicles.

Subaru sales were up 12.3% for the month. VW brand continues its year-over-year upward push, with a 37% increase over year ago - putting the German auto maker 45% above year-ago year-to-date.

Some of the credit for the February sales spike might go to high fleet sales, but it should be noted that strong fleet sales and higher than usual incentive spending pushed year-ago numbers higher than expected - and no analysts projected the industry outperforming last February by such a wide margin - regardless of the fleet/retail mix.

And early March incentive program announcements from auto makers indicate that the industry is looking to sustaing February sales levels for at least another month.


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Blogs and commentary about automotive data, industry trends, and the future of the auto industry.


John Sousanis

John Sousanis oversees WardsAuto data operations as Director of Information Content, and is Ward’sAuto sales analyst. Follow John on Twitter @CountingCars.  

Haig Stoddard

Haig Stoddard is a veteran automotive industry analyst. His current focus is North America production and longterm sales forecasting.
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