With gasoline prices creeping upward, small cars flew out of showrooms during March even as prices began to climb.
The overall rate of sales climbed 13% to produce a seasonally-adjusted annual sales rate, or SAAR, of 13.2 million units, which is slight above earlier the industry’s forecasts. A strong economy, rising employment and heavier advertising schedules also appear to have contributed to the increasing sales.
The month brought several surprises, including a sharp downturn at Toyota and a reversal of the normal pecking order among Detroit makers.
Ford outsold GM for only the second time since 1998, buoyed by demand for such new models as the 2011 Explorer. (Click Here for more on the GM-Ford fistfight.) Meanwhile,Chrysler enjoyed its best sales for any month in almost three years while GM still managed to post a double-digit increase. Audi and Nissan reported had record sales, while Honda’s sales increased by 19%.
But after seeming to get momentum moving in the right direction during January and February, however, Toyota took more lumps, overall volume dropping 5.7%, despite a 52% increase in sales of the Prius and stronger than expected sales of the fuel-efficient Corolla.