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News > Companies
Auto sales set Feb. record
March 1, 2000: 4:43 p.m. ET

U.S. consumers shrug off fuel increases to keep hot auto market growing
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NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Major automakers reported record February sales Tuesday, as last year's red-hot U.S. auto market somehow continues to get hotter.
    Ford Motor Co., DaimlerChrysler AG, Toyota Motor Sales and American Honda Motor Co., all set records for the period, while General Motors Corp. had its best February in 12 years and set records in its profitable truck categories. Numerous smaller importers saw record U.S. sales during the month as well.
    While analysts were expecting strong sales leading up to Wednesday's report, the strong market for vehicles is showing no sign of the slow down that most were originally expecting from last year's record sales.
    
No sign of let up from record sales pace

    "That's the big question; How much longer can it go on?" said Bill Seltenheim, vice president of Autodata Corp. of Woodcliff Lake, N.J. "If the formula stays the same, strong economy, high confidence levels among consumer, attractive prices from manufacturers, I guess it can continue."
    Seltenheim said the strong sales numbers are further proof that U.S. consumers are not overly worried about rising fuel prices.
    "People aren't coming in and saying, 'I can't afford an sport/utility vehicle; I want something smaller,'" he observed.
    Automakers were helped by the extra sales day due to the leap year, but most posted gains well in excess of the 4 percent gain in sales time that extra day provided.
    
GM lifted by strong truck sales

    GM (GM: Research, Estimates), the world's largest automaker, posted a 16 percent gain in vehicle sales over a year ago to 470,805 vehicles. Total truck sales improved 20 percent to 227,298. Car sales gained 12 percent in the month to 243,507.
    Most of the divisions posted gains of at least 16 percent, with GMC and Saturn posting their best Februaries ever. The exceptions were: Pontiac, where sales rose 8 percent; Saab, where sales rose 5 percent; and Oldsmobile, which saw sales fall 12 percent.
    Year-to-date numbers are also strong, rising 16.6 percent overall to 818,942 vehicles in the first two months of the year. Once again, the rise in truck sales outstripped the rise in car sales.
    
New Ford Focus lifts car sales there

    Ford (F: Research, Estimates) saw the opposite dynamic. The new Ford Focus helped car sales post much stronger gains than truck sales during the month.
    "The traffic lights are green on Main Street, U.S.A.," said Bob Rewey, Ford's group vice president. "Confident consumers, rising incomes, and innovative products continue to drive strong auto sales."
    Truck sales at the company improved 3 percent to 208,306 over year-ago figures, while cars sales rose 12 percent to 146,074.
    The higher-priced divisions saw the best gains during the month, with Jaguar posting a 175 percent rise, Lincoln sales rising 25 percent, and Volvo increasing 17.1 percent. By comparison, the Ford nameplate posted a 3 percent gain in sales, although it accounted for 82 percent of the company's overall North American sales, while sales of Mercury vehicles fell 9 percent.
    Ford upgraded its compact car by introducing the now-hot Focus last fall. The model had sales of 23,820 without the incentives necessary to sell the earlier model of the Escort, which had been built at the plant now building the Focus. The Escort is still available, but its sales fell 73 percent drop in the month. Combined, the two models sold 5,668 more cars than year-ago Escort sales.
    
Strong minivan sales help DaimlerChrysler set record

    German-U.S. automaker DaimlerChrysler saw record February sales in all its U.S. divisions, from the components of the former Chrysler Corp. to imports of Mercedes Benz, and even to Freightliner Corp., its tractor-trailer truck division, which is the leader in that market.
    Sales of Chrysler, Plymouth, Jeep and Dodge brand cars fell 3 percent in the month to 70,476 vehicles vs. year-ago figures, but an 8 percent gain in light truck sales to 16,4201 gave those brands a 5 percent gain for the month, with 234,677 vehicles overall.
    Minivans were the strength of those divisions, posting a combined 26 percent gain to 56,049 for the month. Sport/utility vehicles sales fell 5 percent, to 54,174 vehicles.
    Sales of Mercedes imports climbed 27 percent to 15,546 for the month, while Freightliner sales gained 4 percent to 10,540.
    
Asian automakers gain despite soft car sales

    The situation was also good for the major Asian automakers. Toyota (TM: Research, Estimates) saw a 14 percent gain in vehicle sales for the month, notching a February record of 127,858 vehicles. Its luxury Lexus division posted a gain of less than 1 percent, but that was enough to set a record for the month for the brand.
    American Honda (HMC: Research, Estimates) saw a more modest 1.6 percent gain in sales for the month to 86,726 vehicles, but it also set a February sales record. Its core car sales fell 2 percent to 65,754, with the biggest decline in imported models rather than the vehicles built at plants here. But a 15.2 percent gain in truck sales to 20,972, driven by the hot Odyssey minivan, let the company post an overall gain.
    Nissan (NSANY: Research, Estimates) also overcame weak car sales with strong gains in truck models. Overall sales improved 19.5 percent to 59,805 vehicles for the month.
    Car sales in the company's Nissan brand rose only 0.6 percent in the period to 29,142, while truck sales soared 62 percent to 24,807. Its luxury Infiniti brand saw sales rise 2 percent to 5,856.
    Auto stocks were mixed in trading in New York Wednesday. Back to top

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Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.