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Despite Prolonged Winter Sales Bounce Back

FCA, Ford, Toyota, Nissan all report gains.

by on Apr.01, 2014

Ford's F-Series helped the automaker to a 3% sales increase in March.

New car and trucks sales rebounded from a February dip led by some perennial sales “all-stars,” such as the Dodge Ram, Ford F-Series and Nissan Altima.

The seasonally adjusted annual sales rate is expected to come in at 15.8 million units, which is an increase of February’s rate of 15.3 million units. General Motors, which normally reports sales in the morning failed to do so due to a computer error, is expected to post its results by the end of the day today.

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Fiat Chrysler, Ford, Toyota and Nissan all reported sales gains for the month due to the strong sales of trucks and sport utility vehicles. Both Chrysler and Ford beat expectations.

Audi reported its 39th consecutive month of sales increases in March.

“We are entering the spring selling season on a high note as our Jeep and Fiat brands recorded their best sales months ever and Chrysler Group extended its streak in March to 48 consecutive months of year-over-year sales increases,” said Reid Bigland, head of U.S. Sales. “Our Ram pickup truck posted its best March sales in 10 years.”

Ford said sales increased 3% over year ago even as harsh winter weather persisted in many parts of the country.

“March sales turned noticeably higher mid-month and finished strong,” said John Felice, Ford vice president, U.S. Marketing, Sales and Service. “Fusion set an all-time record in March, as overall retail sales in the West continued to expand at the fastest rate in the nation – including California being up 32%. F-Series also had a very strong month, as did Lincoln MKZ.”

Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of the Americas, also said last week that the uptick in sales will allow the company to reduce the inventories of unsold vehicles that had piled up during the winter months.

Toyota today reported its U.S. sales in March increased of 8.9% from March 2013 on a daily selling rate (DSR). On a raw-volume basis, unadjusted for 26 selling days in March 2014 versus 27 selling days in March 2013, the company’s sales increased 4.9% from year-ago month. March also had fifth weekend that contributed to improved sales.

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“Solid March sales pushed first-quarter industry results ahead of last year’s pace despite one of the harshest winters on record,” said Bill Fay, Toyota division group vice president and general manager. “Toyota dealers had their two best sales weekends of the year late in the month, and we’re optimistic that momentum will spring us in into April.”

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Nissan Group’s March sales increased 8.3% as strong sales of the Altima, the best-selling mid-sized car in the U.S. during February, continued to propel the Japanese automaker’s results.

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Volkswagen of America reported a 2.6% sales drop as the German automaker’s sales slide slowed. Conversely, Audi reported March sales of 14,246 vehicles: an 8% increase. It is the brand’s 39th consecutive month of record monthly sales.

Hyundai’s sales slid 2% in March. The company blamed the polar vortex for the drop, but was encouraged by an acceleration of sales in the second half of the month after the weather began to improve.

For the 28th month in a row, Subaru of America posted an increase, in this case, a 21% jump compared with the previous March, to 44,479 vehicles.

Subaru’s whittling down its inventory of the Outback crossover, its biggest seller, as well as the Legacy sedan, which are going to be replaced next quarter.

“We are delighted to have once again delivered record results,” said Tom Doll, Subaru of America president. “2014 looks already set to be our seventh year of consecutive sales growth, with more new product to come”

True Car estimates new car sales will hit the 16 million units mark for the first time since last fall.

“The spring thaw has resulted in a slight improvement in vehicle sales but not the nearly the improvement analysts hoped they would see,” according to Larry Dominque, True Car executive vice president.

However, automakers are paying a little extra to pick up some sales too. The average incentive per light vehicle was approximately $2,773 in March, an increase of 7.9% from March 2013 and 2.6% higher than February, TrueCar estimates.

Michael Strong contributed to this report.

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