Shares of Car Makers Don’t Move in Unity Upwards, But March Sales Did

Andrew Klips  |

Major car manufacturers released their sales info for March on Tuesday with a general theme ringing through that consumer don’t care too much about higher taxes and they’re heading to dealerships to buy new cars at the fastest clip in several years.

General Motors (GM) reported that sales jumped about 6.4 percent in March. GM sold 245,950 vehicles during the month, paced by its Chevy Silverado pickup truck with an increase of 8.4 percent over last year to almost 40,000 units. The company’s luxury Cadillac brand notched a 49.5 percent increase over March 2012 with 15,751 total sales. Even though it was GM’s best month in five years, the sales figure still came up shy of the 271,000 total sales Sterne Agee analyst Michael Ward predicted. For the first quarter of 2013, total sales at GM are up 9.3 percent versus Q1 2012. Shares of GM closed ahead by 0.47% on the day at $27.93.

Ford (F) reported a 5.7 percent increase in sales with cars essentially even compared to March 2012, but utilities surging 14 percent and truck sales rising 6 percent. At 236,160 total units, it was the best month for Ford since May 2007. The Ford Fusion had its best ever month and quarter with 30,284 and 80,558 sales, respectively. Ford’s Escape also had a record month with 28,934 units sold. The F-Series, the best selling pickup in the country, saw sales rise 16 percent to 67,513 units. Sales of F-Series pickups have now increased in 20 straight months over the year earlier. The overall results for the month were basically in line with analyst expectations. Shares of F advanced 0.85% in Tuesday trading at $13.01.

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Chrysler Group LLC, owned mostly by Italy’s Fiat SpA (FIATY) and “Imported from Detroit,” had its best month since December 2007 by selling 171,606 units, a 5 percent increase from last March. Sales at Chrysler were led by a 25 percent jump in sales of its Ram pickup. Sales of the company’s famous Jeep line slid by 13 percent as it undergoes a model facelift. FIATY closed down by 1.93% $5.296.

Honda (HMC) said that a 26.3 percent jump in sales of its Acura brand to 14,100 units in March helped lifter overall sales by 7.1 percent to 136,038 units. The stark increase was still less than Honda expected for the month, but it was facing strong figures from the year earlier when sales swelled as Japan recovered from a destructive earthquake in 2011. Shares closed down by 1.0% at $36.62.

Toyota (TM) posted its best month since December 2009 with 205,342 units sold, but that was only a 1 percent increase over March 2012. Much like Honda, the Japanese automaker was facing robust numbers for the month last year. Shares were off by 1.25% on the day at $99.95.

Nissan (NSANY), which sells the Infiniti and its namesake brand, reported nearly 138,000 vehicles sold for March, the highest number in company history, although only 1 percent better than last March. Its Pathfinder SUV saw sales skyrocket 177.1 percent year-over-year and its all-electric Leaf had a record month with sales up 286 percent over March 2012. Shares closed down by 0.75% at $18.65.

Volkswagen reported a 3.1 percent increase in its March sales in the U.S.

Annualized sales for the industry rose 8 percent during the month of March to a rate of 15.3 million vehicles, up from 14.1 million in 2012, according to Autodata Corp., a car information website, attributed the increase in demand, in part, to higher average sales incentives. Kelley Blue Book market analyst Alec Gutierrez cited the improving labor market and tax returns averaging about $3,000 as helping sales. Obviously, it’s a mix of reasons, but people sure spent time in the auto showrooms in March. With about 1.5 million cars and trucks sold, it was the highest industry sales total for a month since May 2007.

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