Counting Cars

First Quarter Sales Up 13.4%


U.S. Light Vehicle sales equated to a 14.35 million SAAR in March, bringing the seasonally adjusted annual rate of sales for the entire first quarter to 14.5 million, well above earlier consensus forecasts for full-year 2012.

Ward's Forecast SAAR: 14.8 million units
Current Est. SAAR: 14.35 million units.

U.S. auto makers sold 1.4 million light in March over 28 selling days an 8.7% improvement in DSR over are year-ago March (27 selling days). The results was 3.3% lower than WardsAuto forecasted, but directionally in line with expectations, with a14.35 million unit SAAR falling in between Jan and Feb's annuarlized rates.

March sales brought the Q1 tally to 3.45 million units, 13.4% above year ago. It also brough the SAAR for the entire first quarter to 14.5 million - a higher rate than most forecasters were looking at for all of 2012 at the beginnig of the year. 

Toyota sales were up 11.2% for the month - and the company sold over 200,000 units for the first time since August 2009, at the height of the cash for clunkers program. Fellow Japanese company Nissan set an all-time daily sales (and monthly volume) record in March - besting its old recordby 8.5% - a record set in March of 2011. Nissan's sales are up 13% for the first three-months of the year.

Honda and Mitsubishi were the only major auto makers to report year-over-year declines: Honda was 8.4% off its 2011 rate, while Mitsubishi droppe 8.7%.

Detroit 3 automakers reported daily sales over 28 selling days in March of 613,341 units, lifting their collective daily sales above the industry rate to 10.2% over same-month year-ago (over 27 days). The companies fnished Q1 u 1.4% over like-year ago.

Individual resultsfor Detroit companies were mixed. Chrysler posted a nearly 30% improvement over last year, as its conitnues to balance its car truck mix in the market. Ford was nearly flat with year-ago, but the company had a fairly good March 2011 to beat.

GM came in significantly below expectations - selling a lot of small vehicles but experienced less-than-anticipated results from its Buick and Cadillac brands. The company's DSR was up 7.8% on a daily basis, against a lackluster year-ago March.

Kia daily sales were up 25.5% - while Hyundai ioncreased its DSR 8.7% in March.

Other Asia-base companies included Mazda,  up just 1% and Subaru up 16%. All Asia-based brands combined for a 6.6% daily improvement over last March and a 12.8% jump for the full quarter.

Volkswagen brand sales were up 29.8% in March - good, but less than the company's current 41% YTD rise. Sister German automaker Audi reported daily sales up 14% for the month and total sales up 16.1% ytd for the quarter.

Daimler brands finished 7.2% above year-ago, with Mercedes-Benz enjoying its best quarter ever with sales of 61,513 ligth vehicles through the first three months of 2012. BMW brands (including Mini) finished the mont8.9% over year-ago, up 16.6% YTD.

Jaguar Land Rover were up 23.4% over year ago, finshing Q1 30% over like-2011. Overall, European brands were up an industry leading 13.7% in March, and tracked 21.9% higher than year-ago for the quarter.

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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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