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March New Vehicle Retail Sales on Rebound

Both retail and fleet sales are projected to improve from February. Incentive war looming because of Toyota?

by on Mar.19, 2010

U.S. Retail SAAR from January 2009 to March 2010, in millions of units.

New-vehicle buyers are returning to dealer showrooms so far in March, lured by huge incentives, after Toyota recall news and bad weather kept them away in February.

March new-vehicle retail sales are projected to increase by 25%, compared with the same period one year ago, according to J.D. Power and Associates, based on transaction data from more than 8,900 dealers.

Retail transactions are the most accurate measurement of true underlying consumer demand for new vehicles, according to Power.

Most manufacturers’ retail sales are up so far in March, with Toyota, Ford and VW leading the major makers.  Toyota appears to be rebounding – in both sales and market share – to its late 2009 levels.

March new-vehicle retail sales are expected to come in at 883,300 units, which represent a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of 9.9 million units. This reflects a retail SAAR increase of nearly 2 million units, compared with February 2010. Compared with March 2009, retail sales are projected to increase by 2.3 million units.

“New-vehicle retail sales increased robustly during the first half of March, and are expected to remain strong throughout the remainder of the month—setting the industry recovery back on track,” said Jeff Schuster, executive director of global forecasting at J.D. Power and Associates.

“March sales could outperform projections if the pace does not level off as expected for the remainder of the month. However, there is some risk that the incentives offered by Toyota could spark an incentive war among several automakers. While this may lead to a temporary increase in sales momentum, it could also potentially slow the pace of long-term recovery.”   (more…)