Pickup sales are driving the market and General Motors, where February volume totaled 224,314 vehicles, up 11.6% from like-2012 on a daily rate basis.

The auto maker says the performance marked its best February since 2008 and best retail showing for the month since 2007.

Daily deliveries of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra fullsize pickups jumped a combined 33.3% in the month from year-ago, partly a result of demand from small-business owners, who purchase from one to four vehicles at a time.

“Small-business sales were a big part of February sales, like in January,” Kurt McNeil, vice president-U.S. sales operations, says in discussing the month’s results with reporters and financial analysts.

Volume to those customers rose 40% from year-ago, and fullsize pickups were a big part of that increase, he adds.

A sales incentive that provided free routine maintenance for three years on Sierras sold last month also helped spur showroom traffic, executives say, and is being extended into March and April.

A similar program for the Silverado is being launched today and also will run through next month.

McNeil assures GM’s inventory of fullsize pickups, at about 97 days’ supply, is just right – not too high heading into the changeover to new models and not too low, given the current demand boom.

“We remain comfortable with our truck inventories,” he says. “We’re on plan and not contemplating any changes to production.”

The revamped Silverado and Sierra are on track to begin output in the second quarter, with the launches rolling out across GM’s three fullsize truck plants into the third quarter, McNeil says.

The auto maker will release some fuel-economy and performance specifications on the new models in March that will “put smiles on the faces of our customers,” he adds.

Industrywide fullsize pickups are expected to account for 11.8% of February light-vehicle sales, up almost 1.5 points from year-ago, GM says. McNeil says the Sierra and Silverado control 40% of that market, and he expects to retain that share.

GM’s incentives on fullsize pickups rose “a couple hundred dollars,” from January to February, but so did transaction prices, he says.

Cadillac posted a strong month, with overall sales up 25.4% from year-ago and February marking the brand’s best retail sales (12,571 units) for the month since 2006.

Deliveries for the all-new XTS flagship sedan reached 2,169 units, and officials say the car’s conquest rate is exceeding expectations at more than 40% of volume. Top trade-ins are the Jaguar XJ and Lincoln MKS.

Cadillac’s performance came in spite of a 41.5% decline in CTS sales on a daily rate basis (one less sales day this year than in 2012). The entry ATS had its best month yet, on volume of 3,382 units.

Buick also posted a double-digit increase in sales, up 20.0% on a daily basis, according to WardsAuto data. Gains were more modest at GMC (14.4%) and Chevrolet (9.2%).

dzoia@wardsauto.com