Counting Cars

March 2014 Sales Thread (FINAL): Industry Exits Q1 with a Roar

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March sales, buoyed by weather-related pent-up demand, lift U.S. LV SAAR to a 7-year high.

March 2014 Light Vehicle Sales Volume:
WardsAuto forecast LV Sales:   1.48 million units
Actual March LV Sales:             1.53 million units

Difference: 50,494 (3.4%)

March 2014 Light Vehicle SAAR:
WardsAuto forecast LV SAAR: 15.84 million
Projected Actual LV SAAR:      16.38 million

WardsAuto tracks light vehicle (LV) sales throughout each sales reporting day. Monthly year-over-year change represents the change in daily sales rate (DSR). March had 26 selling days this year and 27 in 2013. 

SUMMARY: An anticipated March upturn significantly outpaced expectations, as multiple automakers reported best-in-years deliveries. All automakers reported year-over-year gains in daily sales, with a majority reporting double-digit improvements.

Recall-plagued GM saw its market share drop to 16.7% despite an 8.1% gain over year-ago that outperformed rival Ford's 7% year-over-year gain. Collectively, Detroit 3 automaker sales rose 10%, with Fiat-Chrysler sales rising an unexpected 16.7%, giving the domestic auto companies a 45% market share.

Asian automaker DSR rose a collective 9.2%, accounting for 46.3% of sales, while European automakers, up 9.6%, accounted for 8.7% of the market.

The resulting industry LV SAAR was just below 16.4 million-units - making March the bestd sales month on an seasonally adjusted basis since February 2007.

While the March sales spike was bigger than expected, Q1 results continued a trend that started in April 2013, in which industry sales finished below-trend two-months out of each quarter, countered by a significant above-trend sales spike once per quarter.

Total first quarter LV sales came to 3.727,334, a modest 1.3% improvement over like-2013.

3:00 PM: General Motors' 256,047 deliveries represented an 8.1% year-over-year improvement in daily sales. The last company to report, GM's results dropped the projected SAAR to 16.37 million-units for the month, the highest seasonally adjusted annual rate since February 2007.

1:30 PM: Daimler's DSR was up 15.3% on 30,127 deliveries, as premier brand Mercedes-Benz concluded its best quarter ever.

Kia daily sales jumped 15.8% in March.

12:55 PM: Honda daily sales rose 1.8% to 133,318 in March, giving the automaker its first positive comp since December. While deliveries beat expectations, the overall tally still left Honda behind Nissan for the second straight month. 

12:45 PM: Three more European automakers added to the industry's year/year gains. Volvo and Porsche reported  14.5% and 13.4% gains on volumes of 5,915 and 3,808 respectively.

BMW sales reached 35,762 units, lifting the company's combined BMW and Mini brand daily sales rate by 12%.


12:30 PM: Subaru daily sales were up 24.9% on 44,479 deliveries. The Japanese automaker continues to lead all first- and second-tier volume sellers in year-over-year growth.

Hyundai, meanwhile, came in ahead of expectations, with a 1.9% increase in DSR (and a 1.9% drop in volume) and 67,005 deliveries.


11:30 AM: Ford total sales (including heavy-duty vehicles) were up 3.3% over year to over 240,000 units. UPDATE: Ford's light vehicle daily sales were up 7%, on the strength of what the company called its best March for retail sales in eight years.

What's still unknown is whether Ford's gain came at General Motor's expense this month, in light of GM's ongoing recall issues.

Volkswagen's 36,717 March deliveries lifted the company's DSR 1.1.% above year-ago, the first year-over-year gain for VW since June.

11:00 AM: Two smaller automakers continued the upward trend in March sales. Mitsubishi's 8,996 deliveries equated to a 76.7% jump in daily sales compared to year-ago, and was the companies best result since July 2008.

And Audi reported best-ever March sales of 14,246 units - an 11.6% jump in DSR versus the year-ago comp.

10:15 AM: Chrysler finished March well ahead of expectations. The automaker's 192,000 light vehicle deliveries equated to nearly 7,400 daily sales, its highest DSR since May 2007, representing a 16.7% improvement over same-month year-ago on. 

Toyota also beat projections, reporting 215,348 sales - lifting its DSR 8.9% over year-ago, to 8,282 - the automaker's best result since the Cash-for-Clunkers' fueled sales spike in August 2009.

Nissan sold 149,136 LVs in March, the company's best monthly total ever. The automaker's  record 5,736-unit DSR was 12.6% higher than like-2013. The results, in line with WardsAuto's forecast, put the automaker in position to outsell rival Honda in  two consecutive months for the first time since September 2011.

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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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